Confusion surrounding enforcement of maid room size regulations

Many maids rooms in the capital appear to not meet municipality requirements for inhabited spaces but it is unclear who is responsible for enforcement.

A view of the older parts of Abu Dhabi, backed by the new high-rise buildings on Al Reem Island. Silvia Razgova / The National
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ABU DHABI // Confusion remained on Monday over enforcement of building regulations, more than a week after The National reported that residential developers were passing off storage space as maid's rooms.

Abu Dhabi Municipality requires inhabited rooms to be at least 2.1 metres in length and width, and with a total floor space of at least 6.5 square metres.

Nevertheless, one family who leased an apartment in Etihad Towers found the room that was measured 1.9 metres by 1.94 metres were advised by the building’s management to “get a short maid”.

The National asked the municipality last Wednesday to clarify the process of enforcing room-size regulations. It has not responded.

Ben Crompton, co-founder of Crompton Properties, blamed the municipality for approving buildings with small rooms. “Enforcement should be at the building stage, not now.”

Mr Crompton said storage spaces would not have en-suite bathrooms, as is the case in some high-rise buildings in the capital.

However, he ruled out the possibility of developers misleading the municipality by changing room sizes or adding toilets after obtaining a building licence.

“They would need the municipality to sign off for plumbing, otherwise it would be complex to get approval later. I very much doubt developers get around the municipality. That would be a dangerous game.”

Developers may be building smaller rooms for maids because they think buyers prefer a lower price or so they can use the space for storage, said Moin Hamdani, director of the Elysian Real Estate office in Abu Dhabi. “This is really a general problem, I believe.”

Mr Hamdani said it was common to find maid’s rooms on Abu Dhabi island and Reem Island that did not meet the minimum space requirements.

Elena Novikova, managing director of Real Estate Management, said some maid’s rooms in apartments were small and might be attached to kitchens, while those in villas were usually larger and sometimes had a separate entrance.

Rooms with bathrooms attached were considered maid’s rooms, while those without were for storage, said Ms Novikova. “But, of course, if you have a maid, you can let her sleep there.”

Ophelia Almenario, the newly appointed labour attache at the Philippines embassy, said she knew of no complaints from housemaids about small living spaces.

However, she urged maids to ask questions about their accommodation before accepting job offers.

“If they are coming in through an agency then they can speak on Skype with their future employer and ask,” said Ms Almenario.

But she conceded that the law did not give maids the right to check on their living conditions at the interview stage.

Mr Crompton said that was a problem. “Once a maid gets here, they have no family and nowhere to go.

“If they are given a visa and a particular room, they are stuck with it, whether it is big enough for a double bed or not.”