A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding UAE’s Property Ownership Laws for Realtors

In the ever-evolving landscape of the UAE’s real estate market, the surge in foreign investment has taken center stage. Notably, over 75% of investors in 2015 comprised non-UAE citizens. For realtors navigating this dynamic terrain, mastering the intricacies of property ownership laws for expatriates is a mission-critical endeavor. This expertise enables real estate professionals to adeptly cater to a diverse clientele, including expats seeking holiday homes and short-term rentals.

Decoding Property Ownership Types:

  A cornerstone of real estate knowledge is understanding the two primary forms of property ownership available to expatriates: freehold and leasehold.
  • Leasehold Ownership: Under this structure, expats secure property rights for a predetermined duration, often spanning up to 99 years. Notably, the land remains under the ownership of the freeholder.
  • Freehold Ownership: For those opting for freehold acquisition, complete ownership extends to both the property and the underlying land. This grants the freedom to sell, lease, or inhabit the property as desired.

Exploring Ownership Norms Across Emirates


  • Expats and foreign nationals can own freehold property in Dubai, a privilege evidenced by title deeds issued by the Dubai Land Department.

Abu Dhabi:

  • Freehold ownership extends to specific zones including Yas Island, Saadiyat Island, and Al Raha Beach.
  • Leasehold rights empower expats to own apartments, townhouses, and villas, albeit without land ownership.


  • Foreigners and expats gain “usufruct” rights, affording property usage without the ability to alter it.
  • Usufruct rights are confined to government-specified areas and necessitate approval from the Ruler of Sharjah.

Northern Emirates – Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, and Umm Al Quwain:

  • Ras Al Khaimah permits both leasehold and freehold acquisitions.
  • Ajman predominantly offers leasehold properties, with a few areas exclusively reserved for UAE citizens.
  • Umm Al Quwain sanctions property ownership (excluding land) on a leasehold basis within designated investment enclaves.

Empowering Expatriate Property Financing:

  • Financing property ventures is accessible to expats, contingent on meeting specific criteria, often demanding a minimum down payment of 20% to 25%.
Staying Informed and Ensuring Compliance:
  • Real estate professionals must stay abreast of the UAE’s ever-evolving property regulations. Valuable resources like the Content Corner aid in remaining well-informed.
  • The utility of services such as Madmoun, which attests to property authenticity, enhances client confidence.
In the realm of UAE’s real estate, realtors operate as guides, shepherding expats and non-residents through the intricacies of property ownership laws. As global interest continues to flourish, the knowledge and expertise of real estate professionals stand as beacons of trust, providing clarity and assurance for those embarking on their property journey in the UAE.


  • The United Arab Emirates government portal
  • Law No. 19 of 2005 Concerning the Regulation of the Real Estate Sector (Abu Dhabi)
  • Article 3 of Regulation No. 3 of 2006 Determining Areas for Ownership by Non-Nationals of Real Property in the Emirate of Dubai
  • Executive Council Resolution No. 26 of 2014 Regarding the Usufruct of Real Estate Properties in the Emirate of Sharjah
  • Amiri Decree No. (7) of The Year 2008 Regarding Acquisition and Registration of Land Ownership In The Emirate of Ajman
  • Resolution No. 4 of 2021 on foreign freehold real estate ownership in the Emirate of Umm Al Qaiwain.
  • Law no. 11 of 2021 In respect of the Real Estate Register in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah
  • No specific laws for property ownership for foreigners in Fujairah.

Read More: Investing in Dubai’s Freehold Properties





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