Double blow for expatriates sharing villas in Abu Dhabi

Hundreds face eviction and propsect of losing advance rent as authorities intensify One Villa One Family campaign

  • moving home: Many tenants are hopping from one shared accommodation to another hoping municipality officials dImage Credit: AHMED KUTTY/XPRESS
  • One too many: Officials say the drive targets partitions in villas as they are safety hazardImage Credit: AHMED KUTTY/XPRESS
  • At a loss: Many tenants who have paid rents upfront risk losing their moneyImage Credit: AHMED KUTTY/XPRESS
  • Future tense: Scores of familliesface an indefinite future followinga crackdown on families sharingvillaImage Credit: AHMED KUTTY/XPRESS

Abu Dhabi: Hundreds of residents may lose the roof over their head and their rental deposit as the authorities crackdown on families sharing villas in Abu Dhabi.

“I had just renewed my contract with four cheques worth Dh38,000,” said Indian Narayanan Pillai, who lives in a partitioned villa in Mohammad Bin Zayed City.

Pillai has to vacate the place in the next few days.

“The municipality officials gave gave us 30 days to move out. That was several days back. I don’t know where I will go and what will happen to my advance rent,” he said.

A similar predicament faces scores of other families living in the four villas within the same compound.

Around 20 tenants have already moved out but others remain defiant as some of them have paid almost an year’s rent up front to their agent.

Ajay Jacob, another tenant, said his agent has refused to return his rent cheques. “He convinced us that he could get special permits that will allow us to continue living in the villas. But when the inspectors came for a second visit, he packed us off along with our furniture and stuff. It was much later that we came to know that the villas were emptied to hoodwink the inspectors. We are in a terrible situation and have no choice but to move out.”

Affordable options

Dozens of villas have been rented out to expat families in Mohammad Bin Zayed City and Khalifa City.

Similar shared accommodations are readily available in other parts of the city too. A newly-built residential unit in Mushriff is a typical example. Here around 18 families live in a single villa with 40 makeshift one-bedroom and studio apartments. The two-storey structure has a main gate leading to a courtyard with apartment blocks on either side. Each block houses four apartments on the ground and first floors. There are separate entrances for families. The partioned units are numbered from one to 40 and their annual rent ranges from Dh35,000 to Dh50,000.

Most of these illegal facilities are inhabitated by middle income families who would have to otherwise cough up between Dh65,000 and Dh80,000 for a one-bedroom apartment.

In Mushriff even dilapidated shanties have been partitioned into several units and rented out for Dh2,500 to Dh3,000 per month.

Moidheen K.K., an Indian, who lives in one such unit said people like him who make around Dh12,000 cannot be choosers in an expensive city like Abu Dhabi.

“Unlike Dubai, there are not many affordable living options here. ‘The One villa, One family’ is not a viable option in a city like Abu Dhabi where rents are sky high. If they make it illegal to share villas or apartments, we will be left with no choice but to send back our families,” he said.

Municipality officials said they are cracking the whip on illegal accommodation as they pose a safety threat to residents.

Following the launch of the Tawtheeq project by Abu Dhabi Municipality in March 2011, it has become mandatory for residents to get their tenancy contracts attested by the Municipality. The project aims to register all leasable properties and lease contracts in the capital in order to compile and organise a database of Abu Dhabi real estate units.

Informal agreements

But what many residents who live in shared villas get is an informal agreement signed between the landlord and tenant issued by the landlord himself. “When I showed my tenancy contract to the municipality inspector, he said it is invalid. My owner had convinced me otherwise,” said Mohammad Iqbal, a villa tenant who received an eviction notice last week.

However, municipality officials maintain that illegal structures and over-crowded villas cannot be permitted.

Ali Al Hashemi, Tawtheeq, project manager at Abu Dhabi Municipality, said they are not against landlords leasing out to multiple tenants.

“If a villa is fit for one family and the landlord submits 16 tenancy contracts, it is not acceptable because there is a safety issue involved. Any modifications to the building structure to accommodate more families should be approved by the municipality. Our main aim is to stop illegal structures,” said Al Hashemi.

High rents

Currently, rents in the capital are nowhere near their 2008 peak, but a decent apartment is still beyond the reach of many.

In the posh Al Reem Island, for instance, the average rent of a studio is Dh90,000. One and two-bedroom units cost Dh100,000 and Dh120,000 and a three bedroom apartment can go up to Dh160,000.

In Muroor, which is largely dominated by low-income families, rents for one-bedroom apartments range from Dh60,000 to Dh90,000, according to property adviser Tasweek.

By the end of next year 238,000 new units will be handed to owners.

But that is unlikely to cheer middle class families as the new units will mostly to high-income groups.

As long as rents remain high, residents say they will have no choice but to share accommodation.

“There are people who are moving from one shared apartment to another, be it in Khalifa City or Muroor. But at the end of the day, what they get is partitioned living spaces.

“So what is the logic behind illegalising shared villas?” asked a harried tenant.

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Your comments

  • Manoj

    06-Jun-2013 15:57

    Tenant have to pay at least 60,000 pa to get a 2 BHK accomodation in MBZ or Mussafah area , without any Public park or any such other facilities. Authorites should prioroties to provide such facilities before vaccating families to expensive accomodation.

  • Ali

    06-Jun-2013 15:32

    This policy is not harmonized with visa policy that any body can sponsor his wife who has income of AED 4,000 or 5,000, but my question is that can any body with AED 5,000 income can afford all expenses of housing, food and others if this kind of housing policy is in place. They shoulddevelop low budget housing facilities.

  • Malik

    06-Jun-2013 15:18

    One family-one villa seems to be very nice policy given by U.A.E. government, The person who have salary 5000 dirhams and keeping his family here, so if he/she rent a flat or villa, it will cost almost 50000 Dhs to 60000 DHS, If he/she pay all of the salary that is total 60000 Dhs a year, they pay all there money to pay for flat or villa,from where they eat, how there kids will go to school, how they pay taxi fares, how they survive, To all readers it's my request that just think for a while as a human being and decide that how a person live will live with 5000 to 6000 Dhs salary with there family in U.A.E.

  • S Menon

    06-Jun-2013 13:32

    Living happily in Abu Dhabi....should be the dream and agenda of the Government....shunning away the peaceful immigrants with no options is a bad game plan. sharing different entry doors with proper constructed walls should be allowed ... no partition of Gypsum wall on the villashould be permitted. Partition villas should be vacated ...... small and economic housing such as 17 k for studios should be constructed.

  • SSA

    06-Jun-2013 12:46

    This is a response to Mr. John's comment who seems to be very naive or maybe doesn't want to see the ground realities. What you as an expat from west with your western passport might be earning is not what others as an expat from other Asian or middleastern countries are earning. Itsvery easy to advise others to send their families back without realizing the fact that the luxury you are enjoying today is because of the very same people whom you very conveniently asked to send their families back and live by rules. For you maybe living with family is not important butfor many others be it Asians, Middleastern or even Westerners family comes first and they do prefer to live with their families. I am realy surprised to see such a comment!

  • Biju

    06-Jun-2013 12:45

    Posting comments wont give a solution. Authorities should think y people moving to other emirates!! nobody likes to drive one hour one side.. there should be quality for what u provide. I remeber Dubai when started one villa one family in 2008..

  • keenan

    06-Jun-2013 12:32

    Where will the low income people stay, everything is going up except salary. is this justice or a way of telling them to get out. make housing for low income to stay. landlords are becoming very greedy by the day. don't forget without the expatriates this place wouldn't have grown to where it is now. never forget the past. have a heart and lookinto their needs as well. most company make their staff work long hours, they are treated like slaves. what's happening is that people are becoming more inhuman. have they lost what's humanity is all about...

  • UAE

    06-Jun-2013 12:30

    Dear Municipality There are people who are moving from one shared apartment to another, be it in Khalifa City or Muroor. But at the end of the day, what they get is same partitioned living spaces. So what is the logic behind illegalizing shared villas? Is there any honored living Space , where we can live honorably with families

  • Ali

    06-Jun-2013 10:23

    I have one request to all high authorities about salaries. these peoplehow they will live if their salaries will be less.

  • John

    06-Jun-2013 10:05

    Rent prices in Abu Dhabi are still cheap compared to New York or London. And given that most expats get salaries higher than in the West, surely it is not right that they refuse to spend on housing. Those who get salaries that can not get them a flat worth only 80,000 should send their families back and stay in Worker accommodation. Lets not forget that the rules have been made for our own good. I have been in the UAE only for 2 months and have been amazed at the efficiency with which the place functions, so lets not complain too much.

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Latest Comment

Tenant have to pay at least 60,000 pa to get a 2 BHK accomodation in MBZ or Mussafah area , without any Public park or any such other facilities. Authorites should prioroties to provide such facilities before vaccating families to expensive accomodation.


6 June 2013 16:25jump to comments