Author: ARAB NEWS
Thursday 10 November 2011
Many citizens have urged the Ministry of Housing to intervene and curb the perceived greed of landlords. They called for introducing a ceiling on rent in accordance with a classification of residential buildings according to their value and size, Al-Riyadh Arabic daily reported Thursday.
Dafer Al-Shahri, a Saudi citizen, said house rents have witnessed a steady increase over the last three years and that most tenants are victims of the greed of landlords.
“Three years ago, I used to pay an annual rent of SR20,000 for a five-room apartment in the Al-Salamah district of north Jeddah. The building’s owner first hiked the rent to SR24,000 and then to SR30,000. This year he informed us about a third hike to SR37,000,” he said, adding he lived in an old building constructed 20 years ago.
Al-Shahri noted that they tried their best to convince the landlord that the hike was not reasonable. “However, he informed us that the rent of a three-room flat costs at least SR45,000 in the district and this gave him the right to increase the rent to at least SR50,000,” he said.
Al-Shahri said ordinary citizens felt extremely happy when they learned about the setting up of a housing authority and its subsequent transformation into an independent ministry.
“I don’t know when the ministry will start playing its role in curbing the exorbitant hikes in house rent. I wish the ministry’s role would not be restricted only to the construction of new housing facilities. Such projects would serve only 10 percent of citizens while the overwhelming majority of people would continue to remain at the mercy of greedy landlords,” he added.
Salem Al-Saiari, another citizen, cited a similar story. “Five years ago, I hired a residential flat for an annual rent of SR25,000. The beginning of this year, the building owner hiked the rent to SR35,000 despite the fact that it is a ramshackle building with poor electricity and plumbing network and suffered from frequent power disruptions,” he said.
Al-Saiari is frantically searching for another apartment with a low rent.
“But I could not find a suitable one. The rent was higher than SR45,000. Therefore, I am forced to accept my situation,” he said, adding that he has lost any hope of the Ministry of Housing intervening to rein in soaring rents.
“Who will shoulder the responsibility of solving housing problems if the ministry itself is not taking that responsibility? Whose door shall we knock on to save us from the greed of some landlords?”
Commenting on the issue, Salem Baojaja, professor of economics of Taif University, said: “For the last two years, the rents of residential apartments have shot up to a level where low-income citizens find themselves in a position unable to afford their dream home. It is quite unreasonable to hike the rent of a six-room apartment to SR75,000.”
According to Baojaja, ordinary citizens have to set aside a major portion of their monthly income for the payment of rent, and therefore it is impossible for them either to buy a plot of land or build a house of their own. He urged the Ministry of Housing to quickly intervene to curb rapidly rising rent levels, especially in major cities.
“The ministry should come out with a regulation to classify residential apartments in accordance with their facilities, standards and locations. Then, there should be a ceiling on rent for each category of buildings. The regulations should include provisions to take stringent punitive measures against violators,” he said, adding that the ministry should set up a toll free number so that tenants can inform it about any cases of violations committed by landlords.
Khaled Al-Ghamdi, a senior real estate dealer in Jeddah, stressed the need for regulating the unorganized real estate sector in the Kingdom. “We demand the setting up of a higher authority in the mold of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities. The authority’s responsibility must include classification of residential units into various categories and rents,” he said, adding that this would help protect the citizens from soaring real estate prices and rents.