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Dubai: Can an unmarried couple live together in a ‘family’ building?

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Question: I plan to move in with my girlfriend to an apartment in Dubai. The building is what you would call a ‘family’ one, where bachelors are not allowed. Will we be allowed to live in such a building? More importantly, are real estate companies allowed to classify buildings in this manner?

Response: Pursuant to your queries, it is assumed that you and your girlfriend are unmarried and not in marital relationships with any other individuals. Therefore, the provisions of the Federal Decree Law No. 31 of 2021 on the Issuance of the Crimes and Penalties Law (the ‘UAE Penal Law’), and relevant local orders of the Dubai government may be applicable.

It is pertinent to note that cohabitation of unmarried couples is not a crime anymore in the UAE if there are no objections by their legal guardians. The offence of indecent assault in the UAE has been reintroduced with some modifications. Following this, a criminal action in respect of ‘indecent assault’ can be initiated only upon the submission of a complaint by the husband or legal guardian of the female involved in the relationship. Also, the offence, proceedings and penalties shall lapse if, at any time, the complainant (i.e., husband/guardian) retracts the complaint. This is in accordance with Article 409 of UAE Penal Law, which states: “Shall be punished with imprisonment for a period for not less than 6 months, anyone who committed with consent indecent assault with a female or sodomite with a male who has completed 18 years of age.

“A criminal case for the crime stipulated in the previous paragraph shall not be filed except on the basis of a complaint from the husband or legal guardian.

“In all cases, the husband or legal guardian may waive the complaint, and consequence of the same is lapse of the criminal case or the suspension of the execution of the penalty, as the case may.”

Therefore, if you are living with your girlfriend in the UAE, it may not be considered a crime, and there may be no imprisonment or penalties for cohabitation.

Further, it is at the discretion of the real estate company to rent apartments in a building to certain categories of individuals. In Dubai, the real estate company may frame rules and regulations of the building. However, these must be within the purview of the Real Estate Regulatory Agency of Dubai.

It would be prudent on your part to advise the real estate company of the building where you intend to reside that you and your girlfriend are an unmarried couple to avoid any unforeseen situations in the future.

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