x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Villa residents ignore eviction notice

Residents living in villas deemed illegal by the Abu Dhabi municipality are still waiting for a resolution after more than a month.

Tarek Aljaramani, a bank employee, in his flat in Al Nahyan Camp yesterday.
Tarek Aljaramani, a bank employee, in his flat in Al Nahyan Camp yesterday.
ABU DHABI // For more than 20 families living in subdivided villas in Al Nahyan Camp area, the only thing to do is sit and wait.
Nearly a month after receiving eviction notices because of illegal partitioning at a five-villa complex near the South Korean Embassy, residents say they still have no answers.
"Suddenly, we came to our homes one day and the municipality said we needed to empty the villas because many things are illegal," said Dr Khaled Sibaie, a Syrian radiologist who has lived in a studio at the villas for more than a year.
Four of the five villas are residential, with each subdivided to accommodate several flats. One is being subdivided and is not yet lived in.
The municipality opened an investigation into the legality of the subdivisions in June, according to the notices posted on residents' doors last month, but all of the residents have either rented or renewed their leases since then.
"No one said anything to me when I moved in a month ago," said Tarek Aljaramani, a Syrian who works in banking. "I signed a contract, I gave my money. Now I am told I may have to leave. Someone should have said something to me."
Teams of municipal inspectors have visited the development with the landlord at least twice, armed with blueprints and plans, but residents have not been notified of the investigation results.
Several neighbours said they were told toilets and bathtubs were not permitted in the ground-floor studio flats. Others said inspectors told residents new bathrooms and kitchens were not properly approved.
The villas are owned by Arabian Gulf Investments, an Abu Dhabi developer. The company also oversees the property's management. After the notices appeared on doors, management took them down.
Khalifa Al Muhairibi, the chairman of Arabian Gulf Investments, said the municipality approved updated blueprints that included all recent renovations. He said he would have official forms to show tenants today.
"This is over," Mr Al Muhairibi said. "The flats are legal and I have the approvals."
He said there were no more than five flats in each villa and no more than 18 in total. Project blueprints also showed four or five flats in each villa, but residents said at least three were divided into seven flats.
The municipality was not available for comment but officials have said the city will increase efforts to eliminate illegally partitioned villas. Illegal subdivisions are considered a health, fire and safety hazard.
The municipality is not responsible for ensuring displaced tenants have new accommodations. But the Rent Dispute Settlement Committee and Tawtheeq, the emirate's coming property regulatory system, are designed to protect tenants in disputes with landlords and developers.
The municipality did not disclose how some villas are selected for punitive action, but Mr Al Muhairibi said his inspection came after a resident complained.
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The municipality said it would shut off power to the villas last Sunday. Another inspection was scheduled for last Thursday. The municipality did not show either time.
Many residents said they hoped the situation would work itself out but others were sceptical.
"We've been trying to get answers and they kept saying they were working on it," said Dylan Roberts, of the US, who moved to the villas in July.
Another American tenant said: "Every day they tell us everything is completed with the proper stamps, but we never see them. No matter what happens we leave in June and that's a shame . we invested in this place and we've grown to love it."
Dr Sibaie said he also planned to move at the end of his lease.
Mr Al Muhairibi has pledged to put residents in "five-star hotels" if the municipality evicts them.
jthomas@thenational.ae