x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Tenants panic over demolition orders

Municipality identifies homes to be torn down, but residents say move is aggressive.

DUBAI // Residents publicly shamed and threatened with the demolition of their properties for breaching the "one villa, one family" rule said yesterday they had been made to feel like criminals. The municipality has stamped large red notices on the walls of more than 25 villas in Al Rashidiya where there are believed to be multiple occupations, warning that they are to be torn down.

Each notice says: "Building laws violated in this property. Building to be demolished." The notices started appearing after the civic authority issued a "final deadline" of February 14 for residents of overcrowded villas to move out. It is the municipality's latest move in its almost two-year-long campaign to stop multiple families and bachelors sharing villas. It says overcrowding in villas is a major cause of fires.

But an Indian woman who lives in one of the villas said: "This is an aggressive move by them. It is also humiliating for people living in these homes. It is almost like we are criminals." The woman, who, like other residents, did not want to be named, said a notice had been stamped on the wall of her shared villa on February 15. The notices do not specify a date, but tenants say they have been told they must be out by the end of the month. The municipality declined to comment.

Tenants in breach of the rule have found themselves frantically searching for new accommodation. One resident, who shares a villa with four other families, said: "We were out all morning looking for another place to stay. "The problem is that all villas here are facing eviction. We will have to move out of Dubai." Some tenants facing eviction said they would stay put in the hope that the deadline would be extended. Many were concerned because their children are due to sit school examinations next month.

"We just need two more weeks," said one. "The children are the biggest worry. Most have their exams in March and we have no idea how we can manage shifting at such a crucial time." Al Rashidiya, described by officials as a hot spot of overcrowded villas, appears to be the first area targeted by the municipality's new strategy. Many residents were uncertain about what would happen to their homes. One resident said: "The notice says it would be demolished but the landlord says that utilities would be cut off from March 1. We are not sure at the moment."

Another said: "We are keeping the main doors locked, hoping that will discourage the inspectors. I have told my family not to open the door. I do not know where these people will go." The municipality has said previously that tenants have been given ample warning to find alternative accommodation.
pmenon@thenational.ae