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Crowding of rooftop satellite dishes are an eyesore and potential hazard, authorities say Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi recently rolled out a slew of updates to a decade-old law that aims to safeguard the appearance of the emirate.

The amendments to the Law No 2 of 2012 concerning the General Appearance, Health and Public Peace will now see quicker penalties imposed on vandals and others disturbing the public order. In effect, it should also encourage residents to ensure that they take better care of public spaces and property in Abu Dhabi.

The law is implemented in the emirate by municipal sector regulator, the Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT), as well as local municipalities like the Abu Dhabi City Municipality, Al Ain Municipality and Al Dhafra Municipality.

Here is all you need to know about the law and its updates:

What is Law No 2 of 2012 concerning the General Appearance, Health and Public Peace?

The Law is an emirate-wide legislation that aims to maintain the public order. It was issued and published in the sixth edition of the Official Gazette in 2012.

The law prohibits “any action that may disturb or harm the general appearance, public health or public peace” in the emirate. It also grants authority to the emirate’s municipality over the following matters:

  • public spaces, including walkways, marketplaces, buildings, green areas, and public roads
  • public disturbances
  • municipal slaughterhouses
  • swimming pools
  • health controls on non-food facilities
  • general appearances of public spaces
  • satellite dishes
  • signboards
  • abandoned vehicles
  • walls and public facades
  • camping and events
  • any other matters determined by the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council

What authorities does the law allow for?

The law allows municipalities to issue warnings in case of an offence, as well as activity and licence suspension orders. The municipality can also confiscate any tools used, and pursue removal of the activity at the expense of the offender.

The matter was then referred to the courts and public prosecution for the determination of penalties.

What penalties can be imposed under the law?

The regulation allows for fines ranging from Dh200 to Dh100,000, in the absence of any other severer violations. These fines were initially determined by the courts, and were therefore statutory in nature.

The recent amendments converted the penalties to administrative matters, thus allowing the municipalities to independently determine the amount of the fine. It also keeps these cases out of court, and makes their resolution quicker.

The law also calls for a doubling of the fine in cases of repeat offences.

What else has changed after the amendments to the law?

Settlements: The law now allows municipal authorities to offer settlements and discounts of up to 25 per cent of the fine value to offenders. To avail of these, the offender must accept the settlement, then pay the fine within 60 days of the settlement offer.

Prior to the amendment, the amount of discount was not specified, and if one was offered and accepted, the offender had to pay half the fined value within a months’ time.

Grievances: For the first time, offenders can also file grievances with the municipal administration. This is designed to safeguard the rights of individuals, including offenders.

Quicker action: Because the need for a court decision has been removed, municipal authorities are likely to impose fines more quickly once an offence is detected.

When is this law typically invoked, and how much is an offender fined?

Here are some instances in which the law has been invoked in the past:

Abandoned vehicles: Owners of unwashed vehicles are first issued a warning by municipal inspectors. If the vehicle is not cleaned within three days, it is impounded and a Dh3,000 fine must be paid to release it. Offenders must also pay daily impound yard costs for every day that the car is not retrieved, as well as the cost of towing.

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File picture of impounded cars in Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Supplied

Defacing public facilities, buildings and walls: The fines are determined based on the severity of the offence, and the cost of repainting or repair.

Grilling in non-designated outdoor public spaces: Municipal inspectors have imposed Dh1,000 fines on parkgoers found barbecuing in non-designated outdoor public spaces, including parks and beaches.

Installation of too many satellite dish antennas: Dh1,000 fines are imposed on residents and building owners who install satellite dishes on windows, atop enclosure walls, and in balconies. Buildings are also only allowed to have four satellite dishes on the rooftop, otherwise fines apply.

Noise complaints: The penalties imposed depend on the severity of the disturbance, and the adherence of offenders to municipal warnings,