Municipal inspectors do not have the authority to enter a villa, and can do so only with permission from the Public Prosecution. So they have been asked to conduct the survey by observing possible violations from outside, like looking at the number of window air conditioners installed in a villa and cars parked outside at night or at the weekend.
The survey will also cover violations of safety and hygiene rules and check if villa compounds have portacabins as residences.
The inspectors have been asked to paste stickers on the doors of villas where violations are found, if there is no one inside. The stickers ask the owner to report to the municipality concerned within 24 hours or face the music.
As for villas where people are living, legal procedures would begin.
Real estate experts and low-income expatriate families living in partitioned villas believe that taking action against partitioned villas would push up rents of small, affordable apartments to new highs.
Rents of the above units currently range between QR4,500 and QR6,500, so they may go up to between QR6,000 and QR8,000, making things more difficult for limited-income expatriate families.
However, according to Mubarak Fraish, a member of the Central Municipal Council, whatever the consequences of taking action against illegally partitioned villas, people’s safety should be the prime concern of the government as these villas pose a threat to the lives of those living in them.
“However, I personally believe that since families are living in these villas, they must be given sufficient time to move out. There would be issues like children going to school in nearby areas and things like that,” Fraish told this daily. He said the government should come up with plans to help resolve the housing problem of low-income families.
Fraish was, however, critical of the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning, and said he doubted that it would act swiftly. “They implement laws in quite a leisurely way,” he said sarcastically.
Local Arabic daily Al Watan, meanwhile, said in a report published last Wednesday that while the civic ministry had announced that it was gearing up to take action against illegally partitioned villas, advertisements were still appearing in some local newspapers with the advertisers saying that they “specialise” in partitioning and “maintaining” villas. “Newspapers accepting such ads should stop this practice since the service being offered is a violation of law,” said the daily.
People take a villa on rent, partition it and let out the makeshift residential units to low-income families and single workers, and earn a big rental income, said the daily. Citing an example, it said one can rent a villa for QR12,000 a month, make small residential units after partitioning it, and earn a total rent of QR18,000 from them, thus making a profit of QR6,000 every month.
Sometimes, the owners have no idea what changes have been made to their villas, said the daily.