Since the 2008 global financial crisis, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken great care to reinforce confidence in the real estate market. Most recently, the Dubai courts, in particular, have issued a number of landmark judgments that aim to balance the competing interests of developers and buyers, to facilitate the sale and purchase of property in the Emirate, and to keep the market as buoyant as possible in the face of a global economic slowdown.

The courts are upholding the spirit of the law to achieve justice and commerciality rather than simply sticking to the letter of the law. Their approach is highlighted by cases in two different areas relating to property development in Dubai.

1. Developers gain clarity over required governmental approvals for the first time

Two judgments recently issued by the Dubai Court of Cassation in 2019 have clarified the types of approval required, the governmental entities responsible to issue such approval, and, crucially, the timing of the approval, before developers can promote or sell off-plan property in the Emirate.

These groundbreaking rulings and interpretation of the real estate laws provide specific guidance on the above for the first time: developers can now promote or sell off-plan projects after obtaining an approval from a number of competent government entities, including the Department of Tourism & Commercial Marketing (DTCM) and the Dubai Municipality, in addition to registering the property with the Dubai Land Department (DLD).

To speak to us in relation to the above judgments, please feel free to contact Tarek Saad and Abdalla Eisa.

2. Main developers are obliged to ensure completion of infrastructure for sale

A ruling by the Dubai Court of Cassation in 2018 in relation to the dispute over the sale and purchase of two plots of land in Downtown Jebel Ali set a precedent by confirming the liability of both main developers and sub developers for ensuring that the infrastructure is completed for a property or land before it is advertised or offered for sale.

To speak to us in relation to the above judgment, please feel free to contact Wael El Tounsy, Shaima Al Barguthi and Marina Gaballah.

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Wael El Tounsy is the Head of the Real Estate Dispute Resolution practice at Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla, based in Dubai. He has practiced law in the Middle East for over 30 years with a focus on real estate and construction litigation, including in relation to property investment and development, sale and purchase agreements and specialist commercial real estate. His experience extends to arbitration-related court proceedings, criminal litigation matters and maritime disputes.


Tarek Saad is a Dispute Resolution partner in the Dubai office and is also seasoned in maritime and insurance law. He has over 23 years' experience in general litigation in the Middle East, and has been practicing in the UAE for more than ten years. Tarek has extensive experience in civil, commercial, criminal, real estate and shipping disputes as well as intellectual property and employment litigation under UAE law. He appears before the UAE courts at various levels.


Abdalla Eisa is an associate in Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla's Dispute Resolution practice, based in Dubai. He has experience in handling litigation and dispute resolution matters across a variety of industries and areas of UAE law, including real estate, employment, insurance, civil, shipping and maritime, transport and commercial disputes. Abdalla advises on both contentious and transactional shipping matters, having previously worked in the operations field of a top tier shipping line.


Shaima Al Barguthi is an associate in Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla’s Dispute Resolution Practice Group, based in Dubai. She focuses on civil and commercial litigation matters and appears in courts throughout the UAE, including local and Federal courts. Shaima represents clients on commercial disputes across a variety of industry sectors, including the real estate, construction and insurance sectors.


Marina Gaballah is an associate in Baker McKenzie Habib Al Mulla's Dispute Resolution Practice Group, based in Dubai, with a focus on real estate, construction and civil and commercial litigation matters. She has been involved in various complex disputes that were reviewed before the courts and other judicial entities, such as the Rental Committee in Dubai and the Dispute Resolution Centre in Dubai.

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