After three years of living in rental bliss I could be making my first date with the rent committee. My landlord’s agent with whom I have always had a very cordial relationship called the other day and asked for a 100 per cent increase in rent. “Sounds a little unreasonable to me,” was my clipped reply. “Well do you want to negotiate?” the agent asked, “maybe we could do 90 per cent?” “I don’t think so,” I laughed. “So how much more would you like to pay?” was the final question. “Nothing,” I snapped.
My case is just one of hundreds if not thousands of tales of rental woe across the emirate. You move into an apartment or villa, you make it your own and then the dreaded call comes. I realise I’ve been very lucky. Three years is a long time to stay in one place in this town if you’re renting. But I haven’t given up yet. Yes, I pay a very good rate to live in a nice area. And, yes, my neighbours probably do pay twice as much as I do. But when I moved into my home I did so with a certain budget in mind. Having just arrived in the UAE, I naively assumed the rent would stay within an affordable band. How wrong I was. Since then I have had two rent rises, which I have happily paid, but now I take exception to a third and rather extreme one at that.
While the market rate for my property has risen dramatically, my salary has not seen such a sharp increase. So why would I want to pay twice as much to live in the same place. I wouldn’t. It’s not as if the property has undergone a dramatic makeover complete with freshly painted walls and a spanking new kitchen. Quite the opposite in fact; after three years of general wear and tear it does not feel quite as luxurious as when I first moved in.
As you grow in life – we are now a family of three rather than two – you like your home to grow with you. But because of the exorbitant rent increases, many are forced to downsize rather than upsize. I reckon if you stay long enough and don’t buy, you could move from a five-bedroom villa to a bedsit in no time at all. I don’t need to explain the economics of it to you. It’s a simple supply and demand factor; too many people chasing too few properties. But that doesn’t get away from the daily wrangles at the rent committee’s Deira office between landlords and tenants.
Naturally there are two sides to the argument. A landlord wants to make the best return on his investment whereas the tenant wants to stay within their budget. So finding a middle ground on such a contentious subject is tricky. I am never going to agree to a 100 per cent increase and my landlord will never happily accept no increase at all, which is where the rent committee comes in. After three years, a landlord is entitled to appeal to have the rent raised to the market rate. Whether the rent committee agrees to that or not will be very interesting. After all, if a landlord can correct his rent every three years in line with the market surely that defeats the purpose of the cap in the first place?
So whether I will stay put or end up in that bedsit will be up to the officials.
But in this spinning city – where everything moves so fast – we sometimes forget that where we live is also our home and uprooting every couple of years to dodge the increases makes for a very unsettled community.
When rental cases make you mad