DUBAI // Housing inspectors are getting tough with tenants who illegally share villas to combat rising rents.
They caught 300 offenders in the first six months of the year, when apartment rents increased by 6 per cent and villas by 9 per cent.
"If rents go up, surely they will come back again to share," said Jabir Ahmed Al Ali, head of the inspection unit at Dubai Municipality buildings department. "If that happens, we will work harder.
"Our message is: don't share. You can rent a house anywhere. It is better and safer for the family. Why should you break the rules? We give a week's notice. If they don't move, we disconnect electricity."
The "one villa, one family" rule was established in 2008. More than 800 people were evicted from illegally shared villas in 2011. This year, Mr Al Ali says his department is stepping up inspections on multi-occupancy in Al Bada'a near Satwa, Al Jafiliya and Al Rashidiya.
"When power is cut and houses are vacated, we take a letter from the owner that the villa will not be rented again to more than one family," he said.
Tenants and owners of illegally shared villas may be fined up to Dh50,000.
Faisal Mirza, a Pakistani expatriate who has moved three times in the past six months after being evicted, said: "If I am comfortable sharing and am ready to bear the consequences, I should be free to choose where I can live."
Mr Mirza, a sales representative in Hamriya, pays Dh2,000 a month rent and shares a kitchen with two other families. "If I had the option, I would live in a flat. But my salary is low and I can't afford to pay rent upfront," he said.
"It is not logical for one family to stay in a huge villa. They can't afford it."
The no-sharing rule applies to all villas, irrespective of the number of rooms. "Only one family can live there, whether there is one room or 30 rooms," said Mr Al Ali. "Let families take another small villa or a flat."
Masuma Hussain, a resident of Al Jafiliya, said the high cost of living forced tenants to turn to multi-occupancy. "Everyone wants to live well but it is very hard for low income families."
Offences are inevitable, said Saddat Abbasi, a housing agent who regularly rents four to ten-room villas to multiple families.
"No one can afford to rent an entire villa," he said. "They say one family is allowed to stay in a villa but it is not possible."
Mr Abassi said at least 20 families approach him every month to share homes and can afford to pay between Dh800 and Dh4,500 a month.
"People know about the municipality regulations but they still stay," he said. "There are advertisements in papers, websites, everywhere."
Like the municipality, he expects demand for sharing properties to increase as the rents pick up again. "Ramadan will be slow, but maybe after Eid demand for villas will increase."