Mismatch between salaries and rents, Abu Dhabi residents say

An aerial view of the high-rise buildings near Hamdan street area in in Abu Dhabi.Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: A common theme emerges when speaking to Abu Dhabi residents, rent prices are high, and are difficult to maintain. Residents were also unaware of their rights as tenants, and the options they have should they face an issue with their landlord, such as a dispute over rent, with Abu Dhabi Rent Committees readily available for both tenants and landlords to take their case to should they have a complaint.  Ceejay Gamo, 34, from the Philippines, who works as a sales manager tells Gulf News that he and his family, a wife and son share a room with another family, as he cannot afford any other means of accommodation. “Obviously I would like to have my own apartment, or even my own room for the family, but it’s impossible. The cost of renting an apartment by oneself is too expensive and with my salary, I cannot afford it. I live with my family - my wife and son - which costs Dh 1,200 a month. We share the room with another family. If I had to rent the room for myself, it would cost me Dh2,400, which will be too expensive, so we have no option but to share.” Worried about the rent hikes that could take place in the near future, Ceejay says even his current rent was increased after one year, which leaves him with no option but to look for another place to live in. “I have been here for a year now, and already witnessed an increase, I was paying Dh 1,000 before, but now I have to pay Dh 1,200.” Unsure about what awaits him in the form of yet another hike, and how soon, Ceejay says he is a worried man.Given the situation, he believes there should be regulations in place that will check the housing market fluctuations that can be extreme sometimes. These regulations can help tenants manage their rent budgets, and prevent landlords from gaining full control of the situation and do as they please with the prices. “I believe the government should regulate the market,” he says, “ and should cap the increase at a maximum of five percent for the landlords like it was before. There should also be a stipulation that the rent hike will occur every three years, or something along those lines instead of having an increase every year. “If the landlords increase the prices by so much, what can people do about it? If people’s salaries are not going up but the rents are, it doesn’t leave them with many options.” Was he aware of his rights as a tenant? Ceejay said he had no idea about his rights as a tenant, and was not aware of the Abu Dhabi Rent Committees.  Dixon George, 34, from India, currently working as a housekeeping supervisor, had previously lived with his family in a villa before having to move with his wife and two children to a one-bedroom apartment, due to the annual hikes in rent that had become too much to pay. “Previously, I was living in a villa, but year on year the landlord increased the rent and didn’t give a reason for doing so, I lived in the villa for six years and started out by paying Dh 40,000. The rent eventually rose to Dh 90,000 and I couldn’t afford it, so I moved out.” Dixon says he is currently looking out for a two-bedroom apartment, but even these units are at a premium and the rents are too high for him to manage successfully within his budget. “It is very difficult to find an apartment in Abu Dhabi,” he says. “I can’t afford the prices at this moment but I keep looking to see if I can find something. Abu Dhabi, in comparison to other cities, is more expensive when it comes to rents. I have relatives living in Sharjah and Dubai, and for the same type of apartment, they pay less than I do.” Were it not for the fact that his wife is also working, Dixon says he would have been unable to manage the costs on his own and would have been forced by circumstances to send his family back to India. “Currently I am already spending more than 50 percent of my earnings for the rent, and then there are all the other things you have to pay for, like school fees, essentials, etc. On my own, I wouldn’t have been able to manage it.” He also is concerned about the increase in electricity and water bills. “Earlier, the bill wouldn’t go higher than Dh100, I would pay around Dh 50, but now those maintenance prices have doubled so those are the extra costs you have to pay for. We save as much as we can, keeping the lights off whenever it is required, just to keep the under control.”  Nias T., 29, from India, works as a store manager and currently lives in a studio flat with his wife and son. Nias says that in the last year alone while looking at rent prices, he’s seen a major increase in rates. “Within the span of a year, there has been a big difference in prices, For example, last year, you could find a one-bedroom apartment for around Dh25,000 to Dh30,000, but this year, the prices have gone up from Dh35,000 to Dh40,000.” “I live in a studio with my family as the rents of a one-bedroom apartment are too much for me. I can’t afford them. I consider myself to be middle class, and at the moment, I wouldn’t say my situation is hard or problematic, but it is not easy either. My wife doesn’t work so when you’re the only salary earner, it’s not easy. Obviously, if both of us were to be working, we could have afforded to live in a one-bedroom apartment, but at the moment I can only afford a studio flat.” The increasing cost of living also means that he cannot save much. Yet, he believes that there should not be strict regulations imposed on landlords, and if they do increase rents unrealistically, it will only work against their best interests. “They should be able to do what they like because, if they hike the rents too much, I will move out and go find another place. It’s the same with anybody else. A new tenant wanting to move in will be deterred by the high rents and look for some other place. In the end, this will only hurt the landlord. Which is why I believe regulation for landlords are not necessary.” However, he also conceded that regulations that call for a decrease in inflated rents would be helpful. “If there was a decrease by five percent then that could help, and we could save more money.”Like every other individual who equates increased rents with the need for a higher salary, Nias too believes an increase in salary would help. “If rents go up, but the salary doesn’t, it makes things difficult. But increased salaries depend on the market, and how the company is doing. Not every company can always raise salaries.” Concerning his rights as a tenant and his legal options, Nias said he was unaware of it and it was the first time he said, that he had been informed of the Abu Dhabi Rent Committees. Source: Sami Zaatari, special to Gulf NewsSami Zaatari is a trainee at Gulf News


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