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How many years can you own a house in Dubai?

Dubai has seen massive growth in its real estate market over the last few decades, becoming one of the most popular places in the world to invest in property. However, unlike freehold properties in many other countries, foreigners cannot buy freehold land in Dubai. Instead, they can purchase properties through 99-year renewable leases.

How many years can you own a house in Dubai?

What is a 99-year leasehold?

A 99-year leasehold allows a foreign buyer to take ownership of a property in Dubai for 99 years. After this period, the lease must be renewed or the property transfers back to the freehold landowner, which is usually the developer or the government.

The process to renew a 99-year lease is relatively straightforward and affordable. The steps usually involve paying a nominal fee to the freehold owner and signing a new 99-year lease contract. In most cases, the renewal will be granted as long as the owner has abided by the terms of the lease.

Benefits of 99-year leaseholds in Dubai

There are several benefits to purchasing leasehold properties in Dubai:

  • More affordable – Leaseholds are usually 10% to 30% cheaper than comparable freehold units. This makes Dubai real estate more accessible to buyers with smaller budgets.
  • Established locations – Most leasehold units are in prime, well-developed areas with good infrastructure and amenities.
  • Easier financing – Banks may offer better mortgage rates and terms for leaseholds compared to freeholds. This also improves affordability.
  • Lower risks – Leaseholds allow foreign buyers to invest in Dubai real estate without high upfront capital for land purchase. The renewability of the leases also reduces long-term risks.

Steps for renewing 99-year leaseholds in Dubai

The exact renewal procedures can vary depending on the developer or area. However, the typical process involves:

  1. Verification of ownership – The owner will need to verify property documents, payments, and adherence to lease terms.
  2. Application for renewal – The owner submits an application to renew the lease, usually 2 years before expiration. This application should include a processing fee.
  3. Inspection of property – The developer or governing authority will inspect the property to ensure there are no violations of the lease terms.
  4. Signing new contract – The updated 99-year lease contract is prepared and signed by relevant parties like the owner, developer, and Land Department.
  5. Payment of renewal fees – The owner pays any assessed renewal, administration, or other applicable fees. This secures the new 99-year leasehold rights.
  6. Registration – The new leasehold contract is recorded with the Dubai Land Department to complete the renewal process.

As long as the owner takes care of their property and submits the application on time, getting a lease renewal is usually straightforward. The fees are also relatively low, often just 5% to 10% of a property’s value. This makes long-term residence in Dubai an accessible option for expatriates.

What happens if a leasehold is not renewed?

For leaseholds that are not renewed in time, the property ownership will automatically revert to the freehold master developer or government entity that issued the lease. They can then assume full control and possession of the property.

The expired leaseholder loses all ownership rights as well as any money invested into the property. They may also be forced to immediately vacate the premises.

In rare cases, an extension may be granted if the owner can show valid reasons for being unable to renew in time. However, significant late fees usually apply. It is best not to let a lease expire unintentionally.

Tips for smoothing the lease renewal process

  • Review timelines – Mark calendars well ahead of renewal application deadlines to avoid last-minute issues.
  • Hire an expert – Real estate brokers and lawyers can help navigate any complex requirements or negotiations.
  • Keep property maintained – Follow community rules and ensure regular maintenance to avoid any violations that could complicate renewal approval.
  • Save up reserves – Have funds set aside for all possible renewal, transfer, and administration fees that may apply.
  • Explore financing – If needed, arrange financing options for leasehold renewals from banks or private lenders.

Overall, Dubai’s 99-year renewable leasehold system offers excellent long-term stability and financial flexibility for expatriate homeowners. With proper planning and care, investors can enjoy decades of residence even without freehold ownership rights.

Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. Can a leasehold property be sold in Dubai?
    Yes, leaseholds can be sold to other investors through normal property transfers. The new owner takes over the remaining years of the lease contract.

  2. Can I get a mortgage for a leasehold in Dubai?
    Most Dubai banks do offer mortgage financing for leasehold properties, with different terms than freehold mortgages.

  3. Do leaseholds limit renovation options?
    Owners can make internal non-structural modifications but may need approvals for major renovation works. Check with your community rules.

  4. How much are the renewal fees?
    Renewal fees are set by the developer or authorities. They typically range from 5% to 10% of a property’s value.

  5. When should I apply to renew my leasehold?
    It’s recommended to begin the renewal process 24 months ahead of your lease expiry date to ensure sufficient processing time.

  6. Can lease terms be extended beyond 99 years?
    No, by law all Dubai leaseholds have a limit of 99-year terms whether newly issued or renewed.

  7. Do rental returns compare well to freeholds?
    Leaseholds tend to earn slightly lower rents. However, they cost less, improving rental yield percentages.

  8. Are leaseholds only for apartments?
    No, leasehold villas and townhouses are also commonly available, especially in non-freehold designated areas.

  9. Can unused renewal years be carried over?
    No, renewals grant a flat additional 99-year term. Unused years cannot accumulate.

  10. Do leaseholds appreciate slower than freeholds?
    Historically leasehold appreciation is 1 to 3 percentage points behind comparable freeholds.

  11. Are there additional fees after renewal?
    Aside from applicable transfer and mortgage charges, no recurring extra fees apply during the new lease period.

  12. Can family inherit my leasehold?
    Yes, Dubai leaseholds can be inherited according to local inheritance laws by a spouse or descendants.

  13. Where are leasehold properties located?
    Popular locations include Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT), Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Village Circle (JVC), and parts of Arabian Ranches.

  14. Do tenants prefer freehold over leasehold?
    There is generally no major distinction for rental demand. Tenants prioritize location, amenities, facilities over ownership model.

  15. Is it difficult for bachelors to purchase leaseholds?
    Yes, some developers restrict leasehold sales to families. Bachelors often opt for rental apartments.

  16. When were leaseholds introduced in Dubai?
    Dubai allowed foreign freeholds in 2002 but enabled leaseholds through Law No. 16 of 2007.

  17. Can I sell just half my leasehold rights?
    No, the sale or renewal must be done for the entire property. Partial sales/renewals are not possible.

  18. Do leaseholds decrease yearly in value?
    Not necessarily. As with freeholds, values depend on market trends, not the remaining lease period.

  19. Can developers refuse leasehold renewals?
    Renewal rejections are extremely rare if lease terms are properly followed and fees paid on time.

  20. Is a leasehold legally less secure than freehold?
    No, registered Dubai leaseholds enjoy full legal protections and recognition equivalent to freehold rights.


In summary, expatriate residents can securely own well-located Dubai properties through 99-year renewable leaseholds. This makes the emirate’s booming real estate market more accessible to mid-range investors and families. Leaseholds offer excellent stability through guaranteed renewal options for several generations. By following regulations and planning ahead for renewals, buyers can avoid legal risks and enjoy long-term capital growth and income. So for many, leaseholds represent the ideal balance of affordability, prime locations, and durable ownership rights.


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