Watch out for that wily apartment watchman

Tenants of several neighbourhoods here are complaining that watchmen of their buildings, who control odd jobs, have become a major source of harassment for them.

By Eman Al Baik

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Published: Tue 28 Dec 2004, 10:51 AM

Last updated: Wed 23 Nov 2022, 4:40 PM

Tenants say those who do not agree to fall victims of the manipulations of these watchmen — who establish their own network of workers like plumbers, electricians, masons, car cleaners and painters — end up spending more money than they would otherwise.

“Once, I found out that the watchman was intentionally not filing my complaints with the real estate office when I needed a sanitary worker to fix a leak in the bathroom,” said Ramzi Zaki, a tenant of a building on Jamal Abdul Nasser Street.

“I was forced to engage a worker myself to fix the water leak though the landlord — the real estate office — was expected to get the work done,” Zaki told Khaleej Times.

“When I later needed another sanitary work done, the worker refused to come, saying the watchman had insisted on taking his cut when he came the last time,” said the exasperated tenant.

“When tenants themselves hired workers after failing to get the real estate company’s response, despite having asked the watchman to file a complaint, the watchman would take his cut from the worker,” Ramzi said.

“As the years passed, I realised that I cannot do anything inside my house without the watchman knowing about it and taking his share of the money I pay to the workers.

“The watchman was even promoting his own network of workers among the tenants claiming that he could provide better service than the real estate company.”

Zaki said he had initially kept quiet as he knew that the real estate company was inefficient in responding to tenants’ requests for urgent maintenance works and also because he did not want to harm the watchman.

“I also submitted to the manipulation of the watchman of the building,” added Zaki.

Murshid Ali, a resident of a building in the Bu Shaghara neighbourhood, who had similar tales of woe about the monopolisation of maintenance services by the watchman, said: “The watchman indirectly charges me Dh10 each time I need to go up to the roof to fix the satellite dish. He begins narrating the miserable condition of his children back home and at the same time claims to have misplaced the key of the roof’s door. The key is found only after I pay him Dh10, though obstensibly out of sympathy for his children.”

“One day, I called in a technician to fix the satellite dish and adjust the receiver. Once the work was finished, the technician demanded Dh150. I later learned from the technician that the watchman had sought Dh50 for opening the roof’s door,” he said.

Ramon, a Filipino employee in a private company in Dubai living in the same building, said: “As the rent soared to Dh6,000, I decided to share the house with more people. After placing an ad in the newspaper, we received a number of calls from interested bachelors. Those who came to see the house, told us the watchman had asked to be paid Dh100 if they were going to reside in the house with us. He had threatened not to let them in unless he was paid.”

Haidar Abdul Kareem, a Lebanese tenant in a building on Al Wahda Street, said the watchman had offered the job of washing tenants’ cars to a number of Asians.

“I had agreed with the building’s Egyptian watchman to have my car cleaned every day for Dh100 a month. One day, I went down early at dawn wanting to travel to Abu Dhabi. I was astonished to see an Asian cleaning the car. Asking the worker, I found out that six workers who were cleaning cars were offered the job by the watchman. The worker told me that he was paid Dh30 by this watchman and another Dh30 per month by another watchman for each car he cleans,” said Kareem.

“It is known now to the building’s tenants that the watchman can supply them with workers of all kinds including housemaids and baby sitters.”

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