DUBAI // They locked their doors, pulled down the shutters and ignored callers, but it was not enough to stop municipal inspectors from making the first evictions of their drive to enforce the city's one-villa-one-family regulation. "Inspectors came this morning and reminded us that we have to move out. We were prepared for this and the family is now moving to International City," said Abdul Kadir, a resident of Al Rashidiya, whose brother's family had also been evicted. "We did not expect any trouble, but we were wrong."
The municipality said that starting this month, it would intensify efforts to uphold the one family per villa rule. Officials say shared villas pose health and environmental risks. Tenants and landlords involved in multi-family living arrangements face fines of up to Dh50,000 (US$13,000). In a tour of areas such as Al Rashidiya and Hor al Anz, The National saw several homes with their main doors locked and residents using back doors in an attempt to avoid attention.
Several families sharing villas had indicated earlier in the week that they would use electricity generators if the municipality cut their power. One resident of Al Rashidiya, who agreed to speak anonymously, said: "We have not had any problem in this area yet but we hear that the inspections may happen here soon. "There is constant worry about getting an eviction notice." More than 5,000 villas have been found in violation of the rule so far and notices have been issued to those villas and their residents, said Omar Rahman, head of building inspections at Dubai Municipality.
"This is an ongoing campaign. People who do not care about the campaign would be fined, whether it's the landlord or the tenant," he said. "The inspections will continue to ensure a hygienic environment is created in villas." The villa campaign, launched by the municipality last year, forced many families to move out of shared homes. Notices were put on the doors of some upmarket villas in Jumeirah as well as low-budget accommodation in areas such as Satwa and Al Rashidiya.
The campaign led to protests as families appealed for a delay in the ban and more time to find affordable accommodation. The evictions and notices dwindled towards the end of last year, with no word from the municipality that it would be taking further action. With more accommodation now available in Dubai and a longer warning period, the municipality said the time was right to strengthen its campaign, a point Mr Kadir accepted.
"Flats are now available in places like International City for affordable rents," he said. "People should move out to these places." email@example.com