Eviction threat to thousands of Abu Dhabi villa tenants

Government officials are now warning that thousands of residents face eviction and investors and tenants alike will face up to a Dh100,000 fine.

Eviction notices have been served on properties in breach of an occupancy law implemented last year. Owners and tenants also face fines of up to Dh100,000. Silvia Razgova / The National
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ABU DHABI // Thousands of tenants in more than 2,500 villas face eviction because their buildings are illegally partitioned.

Eviction notices have been served on properties in breach of an occupancy law implemented last year. Owners and tenants also face fines of up to Dh100,000.

"The law does not ban anyone from living anywhere," said Ali Khaled Al Hashmi, project manager for Tawtheeq, Abu Dhabi Municipality's property registration system. "The law simply restricts how many people should live in residential villas and that is for their own good."

Dozens of people crammed into one illegally subdivided villa are a health hazard and can create safety concerns in the community, Mr Al Hashmi said.

"Every day we have a tremendous amount of complaints," he said. "People are complaining about villas that have a lot of bachelors and they say, 'We do not feel safe in our own community'."

Mr Al Hasmi said: "They to go to work in the morning and feel worried and anxious about their family and feel they cannot leave them alone in the house, because next door there are 100 people living in one place."

He said 2,534 villas were breaching the occupancy law, which was introduced in 2011 and implemented early last year after a grace period.

No more than six unrelated adults may live in one independent villa. There are no restrictions on individual families in villas and children under 18 and household staff are exempt.

"The law never stated that bachelors should not live in one villa," said Mr Al Hashmi. "But there is a maximum of six. Not up to 60 in one villa. This is absurd.

"You cannot just go and build multiple units into an existing structure without a licence.

"The landlords know that is illegal and no licensing will be given to them for a residential unit, which is meant to be for one single family designed from an infrastructure perspective, from a safety perspective and from a public community perspective.

"The law clearly says stick to the number of occupants allowed and the building code clearly states do not do any partitions inside a residential unit without getting permission. And yet, they are still doing it illegally.

"That is why the law detects these violators and there is a fine of up to Dh100,000 that falls to all entities, the landlord, the investor and the tenants."

Notices have been given to all villas currently breaching the law.

"This means, soon after these notices, we are definitely going to evict them and, if they don't do that, we are going to take the landlord, the investor and the tenant to court," Mr Al Hashmi said. "That is each and every tenant, mind you. So if, in a villa, there are 15 people then each and every person will be taken to court."

Although the law does not specify that a notice period has to be given, the municipality has been giving a grace period of up to three months, Mr Al Hashmi said.

"We want to spread awareness that this is bad for you. This law was designed and devised for you, not the municipality," he said. "Any developed country aims at serving the community.

"Alternatives are available but people don't look. They just want the easy way out."

Mr Al Hashmi said that while landlords were at fault for illegally subdividing properties, residents were responsible for ensuring their units were not illegally partitioned.

Residents who suspect buildings are illegally subdivided or are breaching occupancy rules should contact the municipality on 800 222 220.