Dubai residents are being warned against dealing with unscrupulous individuals who peddle fake attested tenancy contracts on the internet.
An attested lease agreement is required for all tenants in the UAE to obtain visas for family members.
In March 2010, the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) in Dubai announced that all rental contracts should be registered at the Ejari, “my rent”, online portal.
“But those who are unable to afford to rent their own place have resorted to buying tenancy contracts online, which are fake or tampered with,” said Michael Barney Almazar, the director of the commercial department at Gulf Law in Dubai.
“We urge residents to always follow the law and not resort to shortcuts as the repercussions are not worth the risk,” Mr Almazar said. “You can face a prison term, be deported and banned permanently from the UAE.”
His advice follows a case involving a Filipino who claimed he was duped into buying a tenancy agreement advertised on the internet for Dh1,000.
The man, who is now facing a court case in Dubai, sought help from Gulf Law. Authorities found the document to be fake and a verdict will be handed down soon.
“Claiming you’re unaware that the tenancy contract is fake is not an excuse, especially if you’re not actually occupying the premises,” Mr Almazar said. “The fact that you paid money for the tenancy contact indicates that you intentionally attempted to use a falsified document.”
The law not only punishes the individual who forged the document, but those who knowingly used the forged document as well. Either charge could lead to a prison term of not more than five years, he said.
Under Federal Law No 6 of 1973 on Entry and Residence of Foreigners, the Ministry of Interior may issue an administrative order for deportation to a foreigner if he has no apparent means of supporting himself. The deportation order issued to a foreigner may include the members of his family who are under his sponsorship.
Sponsoring family members is a privilege, Mr Almazar said, and the applicant must ensure that he can provide for the basic needs of his family.
“If you are not financially able to sponsor your spouse, an alternative option is to look for an employer or company that can provide your spouse an employment visa,” he said. “When both spouses are financially stable, one can transfer the visa sponsorship under the other spouse.”
Giovanni Palec, consul at the Philippine mission in Dubai, agreed.
“Those who wish to obtain visas for their family members should not engage in such an illegal practice, particularly using a falsified document, as it is not reflective of their own situation,” he said.
Mr Almazar, who leads a team of volunteer lawyers to raise awareness about civil, criminal, immigration and labour-related issues in the Filipino community, said the practice was rampant about two or three years ago.
“An attested tenancy contract is needed to renew the visas of family members,” he said. “So if you had previously sponsored your family using a falsified tenancy contract, do not attempt to do the same when their visas are up for renewal.”
The lease registration through Ejari is now linked to the immigration server, allowing authorities to verify the real occupant or holder of the property covered by the tenancy agreement.