x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Tenants face eviction as housing costs soar

Landlords in the emirate are exploiting a growing demand for rental properties by refusing to renew tenancy contracts to allow them to increase rents.

AJMAN // Landlords in the emirate are exploiting growing demand for rental properties by refusing to renew tenancy contracts to allow them to increase rents, tenants and estate agents say. In the first nine months of the year, the Ajman Municipality's rental disputes committee handled about 2,200 complaints relating to landlords refusing to renew contracts - an increase of 22 per cent over the same period last year. "What is interesting is that now more people consider referring their rental differences to our committee than having to tussle it out with their landlords," said Uthuman Abu Shuarib, the committee's executive director. The committee has also seen a surge in complaints about landlords increasing rents by more than the five per cent cap stipulated by the Government. The problems mirror those seen in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where average rents are increasing well above government caps. Mr Shuarib attributed the growing number of complaints to the emirate's economic boom, increasing population and the influx of expatriates from Dubai and Sharjah in search of cheaper rents. Ahmed Serkal, an estate agent, said a power shortage was exacerbating the situation. He said his office had more than 500 new buildings available to rent, but they were without power. Mr Serkal said many landlords were attempting to evict existing tenants to get more rent. One-bedroom flat are currently renting for up to Dh40,000, compared to about Dh25,000 previously, he said. One resident, Moses Walukagga, was given notice of just one month to leave his two-bedroom flat in the Karama area. He said the estate agents did not give him any explanation for why he had to leave, just that the landlord wanted his house. "We lodged a complaint together with three neighbours but even the rental dispute committee could not reverse the decision. They only asked the landlord to give us one more month," he said. Mr Walukagga later learned that only new tenants who had signed agreements this year were allowed to stay in the building because they were paying Dh62,000 for a two-bedroom flat. Those on older contracts were paying Dh44,000. "Our landlord is so greedy, every year he was increasing rent but still this was not enough for him, he dismissed us," Mr Walukagga said. ykakande@thenational.ae