Al Ain: The Abu Dhabi government’s decision to do away with the annual rent cap seems to have left several Al Ain residents reeling. They have sought a proper regulatory mechanism to oversee rents in the city.
In some cases, rents have gone up by 20 to 40 per cent, forcing residents to move to cheaper or illegally sub-divided villas in less-than-ideal locations. Private sector employees and small businessmen are the ones to have been affected the most.
The cap, which limited yearly rental increases to five per cent, was removed by the Abu Dhabi government last month. Rents are now determined by property managers and landlords.
“Property managers are now taking undue advantage and have even withdrawn maintenance services in my building,” Mohammad Farouq, a resident, said.
He said his landlord had increased his apartment rent from Dh40,000 to Dh55,000 despite subdued demand in the market.
“Moving house is a major task and they [landlords] know that a tenant will consider it only as the last option,” he said.
Peter Anthony, an Indian expatriate, said the decision had imposed a financial burden on tenants who are forced to live in extremely unhealthy and crowded accommodation arrangements to save money.
“I am surprised by the decision that ignored the interest of tenants, prevailing inflation and low salaries in the private sector,” he said.
According to Anthony, many villas and apartments remain vacant in Al Ain, but an artificial rental hike has been created by profit-mongers.
“The salaries of private sector workers are static and many employers are paying employees peanuts as housing allowance,” Anthony said.
Only government sector workers are free from the rental burden, he added.
Anil Rajshiri, another Al Ain resident, said many people had either moved or are planning to move to shared villas and apartments. Landlords in the city, he said, had a practice of sub-dividing old villas into separate areas and renting them out to bachelors and low-income expatriate families.
“We request the government to force private sector companies to increase accommodation allowance. This can help people get a decent residence,” he said.
The exorbitant rent hike will blow a big hole in the pockets of private sector employees, leaving a meagre amount for other basic requirements, Rajshiri said.
“I believe that the decision of removing the rent cap has been taken by ignoring a large segment of society. It [the decision] must be revoked or the salaries of the private sector be rationalised to cope with the situation,” Rajshiri added.
Murad Ali, another tenant, said the government had taken a unilateral decision by supporting only landlords’ interests. “It was difficult for me to pay the annual five per cent increase with a low static salary…why don’t the authorities look at our salaries and high inflation?” He added that the government should either reverse its decision or make private sector companies increase accommodation allowances.