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Middle East banks continue to change property lending policies

Emirates NBD has hiked the salary limit for expatriates by more than 200% and doubled the minimum threshold for locals.

The tightening of its lending policy comes at a time when banks worldwide are being encouraged to lend more to help struggling property markets.

The bank, which was formed by the merger of National Bank of Dubai and Emirates in 2007, is only considering expatriate customers for a home loan if they earn a minimum of 25,000 dirhams ($6,800) a month, up from a previous limit of 8,000 dirhams. Emiratis must now earn 20,000 dirhams a month, up from 10,000 dirhams.

'Our lending policies are regularly changed according to market conditions,' the bank said in a statement but commentators point out that the change in lending policy can only exacerbate the problem of mortgage availability in the UAE, making it even harder for low to middle income earners to secure financing to buy property.

The bank has also been criticised by expatriate employees of real estate companies who claim it is refusing loan facilities to those working in the industry because of concerns about the large number being made redundant because of the economic downturn.

Other banks have also been changing their lending policies. In November Lloyds TSB raised the monthly salary limit for a personal loan from 12,000 dirhams to 25,000 dirhams.

HSBC also doubled the minimum salary someone must earn to qualify for a mortgage from 10,000 dirhams to 20,000 dirhams.

The UAE government has moved to ease the liquidity situation. At the end of Sept, the UAE Central Bank unveiled plans to pump $13.6 billion into the banking system. Three weeks later, an extra $19 billion cash injection was announced.

But with property prices in some parts of Dubai falling by up to 40% the banks are being urged to do more to help ease the real estate crisis.