This is it: Curtains double up as walls between decks and beds in this flat in Bur Dubai Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/XPress

Dubai: Despite regular crackdowns on subletting in villas and apartments, the practice of sharing — with all its ills — brazenly continues in the UAE, XPRESS has found.

From ‘curtitions’, ‘cabinetations’ and ‘partitions’ to halls, single rooms and open living spaces, a host of options is readily available.

“Bedspace Dh500 upper deck, near Dnata, Clock Tower, for Kabayan’; ‘hall space available for Dh1,000 on Shaikh Zayed Road; ‘master room for rent Dh5,000 with full sea view in Dubai Marina’ — advertisements like these are all too familiar with posts being openly put up in public spaces, roadsides and online forums.

As it turns out, subtenants don’t just comprise the underpaid workforce, there’s a sizeable share of well-placed professionals and families too. They come from different nationalities and backgrounds and don’t always see eye to eye with other inmates. But skyrocketing rents for independent accommodations, they claim, are leaving them with no option but to share space.

A Filipino mediaperson, who has been living in shared spaces since 2009, said the available options and their rates vary from area to area.

“A typical shared villa in Satwa offers ‘curtitions’ and ‘cabinetations’ where three or more bedspaces are available in a room. Each bed is divided by a curtain or wooden cabinet. You could have bunker beds too in which case there would be double the space,” he said.

According to him, the average rent for such bed spaces, popular among Filipino couples, is Dh500, with the lower deck beds carrying a premium. “A room comes for Dh2,500 or Dh3,000 a month which is split among the occupants. An additional utility charge is also to be paid. It can go up to Dh280 a head.”

Utility charges

Partitions, on the other hand, in old Dubai areas like Bur Dubai, Deira and Karama command a lesser utility charge. “It can come up to Dh100 or Dh110 a month in addition to Dh500 for the bed space,” said the Filipino.

These areas also offer rooms in two and three-bedroom apartments for executives and families at higher rates that could range from to Dh2,000 to Dh4,000 for a room.

The shared spaces are deemed more upmarket as you move south. Shared tenants said popular areas include Shaikh Zayed Road, Tecom, Dubai Marina and even Palm Jumeirah where rooms cost Dh4,000-Dh5,000 a month, with free internet and utilities.

A Filipino expat said he and his roommate share the master bedroom of a three-bedroom apartment on Shaikh Zayed Road for a monthly rent of Dh4,000. “We have four people living in the three rooms. Plus, there are seven others in the hall area which has been divided into four separate sections. Most of us are professionals from different nationalities, including Asian, African, British and European.”

He said his landlord has sublet three such apartments in the same building despite subletting not being permitted by the law.

Jaber Al Ali, head of building inspections section, Dubai Municipality, said: “We conduct regular inspections to check violations. We have 14 inspectors who carry out the task. The fine for illegal sharing could range from Dh 1,000 to Dh50,000.”

But evidently, that is not proving to be a deterrent for ‘landlords’.

“I know subletting is not legal, but I am not the only one doing it. I have been in Dubai for 25 years and I see it everywhere around me. Besides, where will the bachelors go with rents skyrocketing once again?” said a subletter in Bur Dubai.

The Indian expat houses several bachelors in two three-bedroom apartments which he has leased out for Dh140,000 each per year. “So that’s about Dh11,667 I pay per month for each unit as rent. Add to that another Dh5,000 each for electricity, water, gas cleaning and maintenance. I can accommodate up to 18 people in each apartment but you won’t have 100 per cent occupancy always. On an average, I make a monthly profit of Dh3,000 from each apartment. But the arrangement makes a huge difference to the tenants who pay Dh800 to Dh1,500 a head,” he said.

Another expat in Bur Dubai, said he began to sublet his two-bedroom apartment after he lost his job four years ago and was forced to send his family back home. “I had taken a property loan and had to stay on. I decided to sublet the flat to pay for the rent while I looked for another job.”

He said he pays an annual rent of Dh75,000 and subletting fetches him a monthly income of around Dh6,500. “I live in the hall and have five others in the apartment. I have never had a situation where I have gone without a tenant.”

Well aware of the law, he said: “We have heard of a few cases where people have been fined, but we have not faced any problems until now. We live like family and have no complaints.”

However, shared tenants in other apartments said living in such accommodations is a compromise on privacy and has many downsides. A sales professional said he pays Dh750 for a room which he shares with another person in a two-bedroom apartment in Bur Dubai. He has issues with his roommate’s eating habits, bathroom hygiene and the temperature control of the air-conditioning unit. “But I do not have another housing option. With a salary of Dh5,000, this is all I can afford.”

A fresh graduate who lives with 15 others in a three-bedroom apartment in the same area and pays Dh1,500 for ‘half a room’, said it’s a daily fight to use the single washing machine or the only oven in the kitchen. There are problems using the washrooms as well. An IT executive who recently lived in a shared accommodation, said: “It’s frustrating every morning to see someone else use the bathroom ahead of you and then leave it messy. Some days I would even find my breakfast fruits and milk missing from my compartment of the common fridge. The worst part is you can’t point a finger even though you know who’s done it.”

Sharing woes

There are more serious concerns. A shared tenant in Dubai Marina said he was shocked when a well-heeled executive, with whom he shared his flat, was using his toiletries and even stole his camera. Another tenant in Deira had to contend with a lost laptop. “I did not report it to the police as I was in a sharing space.”

A Filipina who has shared bedspaces in several flats, said: “Couples in curtitions can be a real nuisance. You just have to put up with their nonsense.”

Another woman said she moved out of a shared flat after she found bedbugs. “I suffered for five months and the landlord did not care to get pest control done. The other housemates were not willing to pitch in, eventually I moved out. But I continue to live in another shared accommodation at Dh500 a month as I cannot afford a home of my own.”

With inputs from Fermel Fuentes, Shveta Pathak and Abhishek Sengupta