Dubai: Residents in Dubai are panicking after Dubai Municipality announced a crackdown on illegally-overcrowded villas.

The municipality recently gave landlords and property owners 30 days (until October 20) to remove illegal partitions and comply with building regulations.

The campaign entitled 'Let us protect our residential environment ... together', cites "classification and codification of land use in the emirate of Dubai ... to strengthen security components and social stability", and urges the public to report building violations.

Many families are worried about the cost of rising rents, saying they cannot afford any of the alternatives.

Karishma, a Rashidiya resident living with family in one room, was worried that the electricity in her building will also be cut off.

"We are paying Dh3,700 for a single room and we only get paid Dh4,000-4,500 a month. I can't survive on that salary, some action has to be taken. How can a family ask for accommodation from their companies?

"With bachelors it is a different story, but for families you can't get a job and then ask them to give you somewhere to live. If you have children it's expensive, you have to get vaccinations and there are doctors' bills.

"The rent increases but salaries don't increase at the same time: these are the problems that middle class people like us face. If we are told to leave, where will we go?" she said.

The municipality campaign has been ongoing for several years, firstly targeting accommodation housing more bachelors than is permitted and secondly targeting families sharing villas.

A Dubai Municipality official said the second phase of the campaign has been designed to rid houses of illegal partitions, which create a hazard.

Illegally-shared housing creates safety and security problems, he continued.

Although the municipality would not confirm the exact number of families affected, it is believed to be in the thousands.

According to Gulf News online polls, the lack of affordable accommodation is the main reason for overcrowding in dwellings (51 per cent), and 49 per cent of respondents live in shared accommodation.

Who does it affect?

  • Families living in accommodation with illegal partitioning.
  • More than one family residing per villa, sometimes with no tenancy contract
  • Buildings that have had extra floors or rooms added to accommodate more people
  • The crackdown is currently being carried out in Karama/Mankhool, Rashidiya and Abu Hail
  • The rule does not apply to one person-per-room accommodation, as per building regulations

The process:

  • Families are forced to share villas illegally because of the lack of affordable housing
  • Landlords and/or sub-letters partition houses, against building regulations, to accommodate more people, creating a safety hazard
  • Dubai Municipality investigates and serves utility disconnection notices to property owners/landlords - DEWA disconnects utilities
  • Owners/landlords sometimes do not communicate the disconnection deadline to tenants
  • Families are forced to move out, but are still unable to find affordable accommodation

With inputs from Ashfaq Ahmed, Chief Reporter