Abu Dhabi renters can't seem to catch a break. Last November, a new property law in the capital made it easier for landlords to raise rents once a contract expires. Building owners, meanwhile, continue to demand payment in just one or two cheques for the year, a state of affairs that makes moving in costly and also reduces the pressure on landlords to fix any problems which may arise.
As The National reported yesterday, tenants at the capital's Gate City are under fire from another angle. Residents of villas in the development have been told their flats are illegally subdivided, a claim that is being disputed in the courts. Although this is no fault of their own, tenants have nonetheless been told that the municipality will start tearing down some internal walls as early as July.
Details are changing by the day, and it's not entirely clear who is in the right. What is clear is that the renters have little choice but to wait this out, or move. Add to this the fact that the owner continues to move new tenants in, and it's easy to see who has been lost in the shuffle.
If this story were a one-time incident it might be easier to ignore. Unfortunately, it's just another example of renters' rights being trampled. Abu Dhabi needs stricter real estate regulations.
For example, if subdivided villas are illegal, why are the renters the ones who stand to pay the price? While tenants can take rent disputes to the Ministry of Justice, doing so is time consuming and costly.
In Dubai, the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Rera) deals with rent-related disputes, and the rent committee has by and large ruled on the side of tenants who have been wronged by their landlords. Renters in the capital would welcome a similar safety net.
Other easily implemented measures would also help. An increase in the number of yearly rental cheques would mean that tenants, who for various reasons have been forced to move or leave the country, can more easily negotiate a way out of their lease. That change would ensure that the standard of maintenance work remains high. When a landlord has your money in the bank, he is in no hurry to resolve any issues.
As things stand, landlords hold most of the cards. It is time for a fairer balance of power in the capital's real-estate market.