Residents of Al Baker Tower, which was destroyed by the fire, pack up and leave after recovering their belongings. Image Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News

Sharjah: Rental rates for apartments in Al Taawun area have skyrocketed in the days following a fire that gutted Al Baker Tower 4 and forced 125 families into the streets and looking for new homes.

In a matter of only several days, apartments that were fetching annual lease rates of around Dh36,000 have now suddenly jumped to Dh40,000 and above, claimed residents who were chased from their flats last Tuesday when a wall of flames engulfed the rear façade of their residence building.

At the scene of the damaged Al Baker Tower 4, livid fire victims told Gulf News that based on their apartment-hunting expeditions in recent days, rental rates in their own Al Taawun area have mysteriously jumped almost overnight following the fire.

Feras Halab of flat 901 said he started looking for a new apartment the first day after the fire struck and quickly realised that lease rates around town at some other buildings had gone up by more than 10 per cent for no apparent reason.

"One of my friends rented an apartment for Dh36,000 six months ago," Halab said in the mix of angry residents standing outside Al Baker Tower 4 yesterday. "Now, they're [the same building his friend moved into] asking Dh42,000."

Moving on

He signed a new contract for the higher rate given that he just wants to secure a new flat and move on with his life, he said, after days of searching for a new flat across Sharjah.

Halab asserted that yet another high-rise residential tower down the road from his burnt building has also apparently jacked up rates seemingly overnight for tiny apartments that are not worth the new and improved asking price.

"Another high-rise is now asking Dh38,000 but a few days before the fire, he [the landlord at the other building] was only asking Dh34,000," Halab said.

Residents said they learned of a third nearby apartment complex they claim was advertising apartments for Dh39,000 but since the fire, those same apartment lease rates have jumped to Dh43,000 and Dh44,000 annual rental rates, a difference of at least Dh4,000 and up.

Palestinian expatriate Mohammad Al Saleh once lived in flat 204 at Al Baker Tower 4 but said he has "lost everything except the trousers I have on" after the fire destroyed his belongings.

Incensed by inaction

Displaced residents of the gutted Al Baker Tower 4 are displeased with their landlord for not presenting a stronger emergency plan of action in the days after the blaze.

Iraqi expatriate Dr William Hamdy, tenant of flat 1902, told Gulf News she was upset at the lack of coordination to help affected residents find shelter and get back on their feet as soon as possible.

When company officials visited the tower, Hamdy said she repeatedly asked aloud, "What is your plan?" She didn't get any answers.

"They don't have any committee to respond, they don't have any plan," Hamdy said. "They haven't apologised to us for the problems."

Armenian expatriate Dr Gayan Adamyan, who rents flat 302 and works as a dentist at a nearby clinic, said she is upset that five days have gone by and tenants still have little to no information on the fire or the condition of their building. "At least they could give us some information, we are standing here in the street," she said, adding that she is now in the process of replacing her labour card and other critical documents that were damaged but salvaged from the fire. "We're just asking the landlord to please give us more information," she said.

Dr Mohammad Ghias, owner of Palmyra Pharmacy located on the ground floor of the tower, said his shop has been closed for five days. Each day the store remains closed, he is losing money.

— By Derek Baldwin, Chief Reporter, and  Mariam M. Al Serkal, Staff Reporter