Abu Dhabi: Municipality officials are discussing increasing the penalty for illegal partitioning to Dh500,000 on real estate agents to halt the practice.

"This amount is half the price real estate agents receive from tenants in one villa," said Omar Al Hashimi, Division Manager, Municipal Offices.

"We currently find a minimum of 7 to 40 families in one villa. We sympathise with those families and have taken a lot of humanitarian actions, but cannot ignore illegal partitioning," he said.

Since 1984 the municipality has been penalising Dh50,000 for the violation.

"Whether it's among family members or bachelors, a violation is a violation," Al Hashimi said.

During Ramadan, the municipality stopped the eviction processes; however, warning letters were sent to families and real estate agents. The action has caused fear among people who live in suburbs such as Al Shahama and Baniyas.