x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Eviction campaign being stepped up

Rumours that drive to force expat residents to vacate shared villas had been halted due to economic downturn prove unfounded.

DUBAI // The campaign to evict people from shared villas in family areas of Dubai is being stepped up and will now focus on the densely populated Al Barsha district, a municipal official said yesterday. Omar Mohammed Abdul Rahman, head of Dubai's building inspection section, denied rumours circulating among the expatriate community that the campaign had been halted because of the economic slowdown.

"We are only concerned about the safety and security of the residents as well as the environment," he said. "Economic recession is not a factor in carrying on the campaign against sharing villas." Officials are now checking villas in Al Barsha, home to many working professionals and young families. Building inspectors continue each day to disconnect water and electricity supplies to around 10 to 20 villas where residents are in breach of the rules, said Mr Rahman. More than 4,000 villas had now received eviction notices, he said.

Hundreds of families share villas in areas such as Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim, Al Barsha, Rashidiya, Hor Al Anz, Abu Hail and others to beat soaring rental costs in the city. The villa campaign, launched by the municipality earlier this year, has forced many families to move out of their shared homes. Officials say shared villas pose environmental and health risks and the department has announced fines of up to Dh50,000 (US$13,600) for owners as well as tenants who violate the rule.

The campaign follows a ban on bachelors renting villas imposed last year, forcing many single men to move out to labour accommodation and flats. Mr Rahman said officials would soon be targeting flats where illegal partitions had been built to allow for multiple sharing. "We started the campaign against bachelors staying in family residential areas in 2005. As part of that campaign we issued warnings that many families staying in one residential unit after making alterations inside the building illegally would not be allowed. It is against the rules and regulations regarding building safety as well as the social and urban planning norms," he said.

The officials said residential units used by more people than they were designed for resulted in accumulation of waste, affecting public safety and the environment. "The municipality had notified building owners and real estate companies not to rent out these premises to bachelors and to allow only one family to stay in a single residential unit. We had also informed them that all services would be disconnected and the future transactions with them would be stopped," said Mr Rahman.

He added that if there were complaints about overcrowding in any dwelling, the inspectors would take action. Meanwhile, residents of Al Barsha said many young professionals would be forced to move out if the area was targeted. "A lot of people would feel threatened and many young professionals would probably relocate to Sharjah or Al Ain," said Trevor Green, a teacher living in the district. pmenon@thenational.ae