The cost of renting flats in Dubai and its neighbouring emirates is expected to rise following the decision to evict families sharing villas, estate agents predicted yesterday. Thousands of affluent families living in shared villas in Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim, Al Rashidiya and Abu Hail are now looking to move to flats after the Dubai Municipality announced that only one family could live in each villa. The authority announced a 30-day deadline, ending next month, for the extra families to move out. "The rental prices of apartments are rising day by day, but the news from the municipality will definitely push them up [further]," said Wassim Tarik Malik, an agent working with Wateredge Real Estate in Dubai. "Pushing the rental price up will also push the property value up, and this can be seen from the last couple of months." Agents said that two months ago, a one-bedroom flat in the Dubai Marina area was renting for an average of Dh120,000 (US$32,600) a year. Today, it is nearly impossible to find one for less than Dh140,000. "These prices will keep increasing on a daily basis now," Mr Malik said. Bassam Abu Diwan, an estate agent with Al Masah, confirmed that a large number of clients he had seen in the past few weeks looking to rent flats were being forced to leave their villas. "A lot of residents from The Springs and Mirdiff areas are asking specifically because of this reason," he said. "Moving to a villa is no longer an option." Farhan Zia, an agent with Exelet Real Estate, said: "The situation is shocking because the prices are going up by the day." According to Mr Zia, the rise in rental prices coupled with the exodus from shared villas is having the knock-on effect of making life very hard for single people in Dubai. Estate agents are forbidden to rent villas to single people, he said, which means they can live only in flats. "What is also difficult is that apartment landlords are asking for yearly cheques in advance, but people are now being forced to comply because there is no other alternative," he said. "This is definitely a landlord's market." People living in villas in The Springs, Meadows, Arabian Ranches and Al Barsha are also being forced to move to pricier neighbourhoods such as Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence. "It is now impossible to find a two-bed apartment in JBR for less than Dh200,000 a year," said Mr Zia. The municipality launched the villa eviction campaign in July, slapping notices on villas in Al Rashidiya area. This week, a 30-day final deadline was announced for all villas in Dubai. "No more notices would be issued to villas. Even those families who are sharing villas but have not received notices must move out within the deadline," a spokesman for the municipality said. He added that once the deadline expired, violators would have their water and electricity supplies cut off, and landlords would face heavy fines - up to Dh50,000. Charles Thornton, who shares a villa in Umm Suqeim, is unsure of what to do. "I am really scared. I do not want to move to Jumeirah Beach Residence or Dubai Marina because it's just too expensive," he said. "We have started looking but it is all out of our price range, and the prices seem to be increasing too rapidly. Our villa is nice and spacious, and a lot of the apartments are much smaller and you will be paying so much more. "What happens if they turn around and decide to throw people out of apartments for sharing?" he said. The municipality confirmed the new rules apply only to villas, and not to people sharing flats. Some families have already had their electricity supplies cut off. "We lived in darkness for weeks but have not managed to find another home," said a resident of a villa in Abu Hail. He said he shared the large traditional villa with nine other families until inspectors served them notice last month. "Many have moved out but families with children have stayed because they have to think about the school transport. Unable to bear the heat, we have moved to a hotel room," he said. Families are now appealing for more time to move out of their villas, and also asking for alternative accommodation. Some families living in villas also claim that they have paid several months rent in advance to their landlords, who are refusing to return the money. However, the municipality has insisted there will be no further extensions of the deadline. It said what people do to find alternative accommodation is not its concern. A spokesman for the municipality added: "Families who have formal contracts with landlords can approach the rent committee and make a complaint. However, nothing can be done for those without contracts." firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
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