x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Power and water cut off to overcrowded villas

Utilities were shut off to villas in Dubai yesterday that had been issued with warnings for overcrowding.

An abandoned villa in Al Jafliya area of Dubai.
An abandoned villa in Al Jafliya area of Dubai.

DUBAI // Officials cut off power and water to illegally occupied homes yesterday in their campaign to clear overcrowded villas, leaving hundreds of people in sweltering conditions. Inspectors from Dubai Municipality targeted 21 run-down properties in Al Jafliya in a hardline move to evict people from what are designated as single-family properties, confiscating illegal generators. A further 57 villas will be inspected today, beginning at dawn.

The decision to deprive the villas of electricity and water came as temperatures reached the early 40s and humidity soared. The homes had earlier been targeted in the municipality's campaign against villas being used by multiple families, and had been disconnected from the mains. But landlords, keen to continue receiving rent, installed generators for electricity and to pump water. These were yesterday removed with the aid of trucks and cranes. Khalid Sulaitin, who is spearheading the campaign by Dubai Municipality, said: "Most of these villas were caught violating the law despite being warned earlier. "Their services were cut off but they continued living [there] using generators as well as by connecting the supply back by themselves."

He said there would be no more chances as enough notices and warnings had been given to vacate the building, and after the two day campaign in Al Jafliya, officials would move onto the Al Rashidiya area. Residents of Al Jafliya said they were not prepared to suffer in the summer heat and immediately started to leave. "We can't sit for a minute without air conditioning in this weather. I can't imagine living here without electricity in the peak of summer," said Mr Abdul Haji, 37, an Indian cook who lives in a villa shared by single men and families. Mr Haji said he had already found an alternate home, another villa in Al Barsha. "I can only afford [to share] villas. I cannot move to a building because the rents are still too high for me," he said. Several villas in the area were empty after residents left in a hurry after having ultilities cut off. "Some villas have been allowed to operate if there are not many families living in them. It also depends on whether any partitions have been made in the villas," said K Arumugam, another area resident. "How will these people live in this scorching heat?" asked Abdulla M, a grocery store employee who has lived in Al Jafliya for nearly 10 years. "There should be some consideration. This is a good residential area and there is no trouble here." It remains unclear why the municipality has suddenly stepped up their campaign in the height of summer. Officials maintained that it was part of regular inspections. "This is an ongoing campaign and will continue until the problem is solved," said a spokesman for Dubai Municipality. Earlier this month, the municipality evicted residents from 27 villas in Deira. Officials said be overcrowded, with more than 200 people squeezed into each property but the residents were said to be mostly housing single men who were living in poor conditions, raising health and safety concerns. The "one villa, one family" rule was launched by the municipality in May 2008. It states that single men cannot stay in villas and are required to move to labour accommodation or apartments. A series of steps were taken by the municipality to remove residents from villas, including cutting off amenities, fines and also publicly shaming those breaking the law. Some villa owners have been fined Dh50,000 for housing multiple occupants, and large notices have been put on the walls stating that the villa was illegal. However, people continue to live in villas and landlords freely rent out rooms. "Many tenants do not even know that the villa is illegal or even that the municipality has given a notice to the owner," said Mr Haji. "The owner hides these things from tenants and continues operating with generators. Finally, its the tenants who suffer," he said. pmenon@thenational.ae