Watch: Abu Dhabi residents 'forced out on streets'

Rasha Hassan, a complainant residing at the Mohamed Bin Zayed City in Abu Dhabi sector 7 (Villa no. 103) removes some of her belongings.
Rasha Hassan, a complainant residing at the Mohamed Bin Zayed City in Abu Dhabi sector 7 (Villa no. 103) removes some of her belongings.

Abu Dhabi - "We are 35 families affected and displaced since July 18"

By Silvia Radan

Published: Sun 4 Sep 2016, 2:49 PM

Last updated: Sun 4 Sep 2016, 6:01 PM

(Video by Ryan Lim)
On May 1, 2016, Rasha Hussein rented her first apartment in Abu Dhabi. It was a nice one bedroom flat in a quiet area of Mohammed bin Zayed City (MBZ).
Last week Rasha contacted Khaleej Times in desperation, as she was being forced out "on the streets".
"We wish to complain about our landlord who has refused to pay water and electricity bills for several months leading to disconnection of the five villas we are residing in," she said.
"We are 35 families affected and displaced since July 18. Attempts to reach the owner turned to be futile and requests to police and courts have not yielded any results in our favour".
What Rasha didn't know is that she rented an "illegal" apartment. For the past three years the Abu Dhabi Municipality has been enforcing Tawtheeq contracts for all type of rented properties. This type of contracts ensure that the apartment or villa rented is not overcrowded and the properties have not been modified from their original design (partitioned), unless an official authorization has been obtained by the property owner.
Hence, partitioned apartments in villas are illegal to rent out as none of them can obtain Tawtheeq rent contracts. Further more, owners are finned as much as Dh 10,000 per partition, if caught.
Like many new residents in Abu Dhabi, Rasha didn't know about these rules. Four months ago she got a job in Abu Dhabi and she began looking for a flat to rent that she could afford.
Like most people, she found an ad on Dubizzle: one bedroom hall in MBZ, Dh 27,000 per year, including water and electricity.
She called MM, an Emirati national who posted the ad, claiming to be the landlord, went to see the flat and decided to rent it. Just as with all the other tenants in the five villas MM claimed to own, the "landlord" insisted on full year payment.
"Now we don't have money to pay for another rent. I currently live with a friend and I'm planning now to sell all the furniture that I bought for this apartment, which is still here," said Rasha.
"Some of us, though, are families and they had to send their wives and children back to their countries. Many lived in their cars for a while and a few still live here, in the villas, without water and electricity!"
"These people are destroying families and they are doing so for the past two years without anyone stopping them".
After being left without water and electricity in July, MM stopped answering his phone, so the tenants got together and began an investigation of their own.
As Ahmed Salem, also a tenant in one of the villas explained, it turned out that MM is not the owner of the properties, not even a relative of the family.
"He is just a friend of the real estate investor. The real owner died two years ago," said Ahmed.
Before passing away, the owner signed a contract with a real estate company, which was renting out the villas. This investor too turned out to be in trouble with the law and its owner is now in jail for over a year.
The company failed to pay the water and electricity bills to Abu Dhabi Distribution Company (ADDC) for quite some time, which summed up to Dh 222,951. As a result, ADDC cut out the water and electricity two years ago.
"For these past two years, MM, who is a friend of the company's owner, has been renting out these villa apartments, even though there was also a court order against it. He would reconnect the wires from the electrical room outside the villas until ADDC realised what is happening and cut the wires again. This way he would get tenants for several months, who would them be forced to leave because of no water and electricity," said Ahmed.
When going to the Police, the tenants were told they need to contact the rent court and when going to the rent court, they were told they could open a case if they each pay three percent of the value of their rent contract, but the case could drag on for years and even then, if they win, MM may choose to pay their money back in small amounts like Dh 100 per month.
"The question is what can we do now? Is there anyone who can help us get our money back or reconnect us to water and electricity until we complete our rent contract," asked Rasha.  

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