The first thing business owners need to think about when renting commercial office space is what kind of licence you have, and what kind of property you require. Unless you have a local Emirati partner or sponsor, you will need to rent space in one of Dubai’s freezones, for example, in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, Jebel Ali, or Dubai Airport. The Government of Dubai also specifies where certain types of businesses must be based, for example, Media City, Internet City and Knowledge Village. A licence to operate your business must be obtained from Dubai Economic Department (DED) before you start working in Dubai, and the kind of licence you obtain will determine where you are based.
The word “free” in “freezone” might suggest that it is cheaper to find office space or warehouses for rent in these districts. This is not necessarily the case, the word “free” just refers to the fact that businesses who operate there do not need a local sponsor or partner. In actual fact, the rents can be more expensive in freezones.
Better Homes advises its commercial customers to make sure they have a legal adviser who has dealt with their kind of business before in place to help guide them through the process of finding office or space for rent. If you are starting out in business in Dubai and do not have a local sponsor but do not want to be in a freezone area, some lawyers offer the service of being your local sponsor so you are less restricted about where you are based. Another option, particularly if your business is a one person enterprise, is to start out by basing your company in a business hub, which involves renting a small amount of desk space to allow you to operate in a professional environment.
Laws on the levels of rent increases allowed by residential landlords also apply to commercial landlords, but commercial leases in Dubai tend to be longer, between two and five years. Office spaces are often rented out as shell and core, meaning they require fit out, the cost of which commercial tenants need to bear in mind before signing a lease.