JEDDAH: “Please evacuate the apartment,” read a number of signs hung on many buildings in Makkah this year. It's building owners asking tenants to leave their rented apartment during Haj and the holy month of Ramadan, as agreed upon in the contracts they signed. Renting residential property to pilgrims is legal in Makkah as long as a municipal license is obtained.
These apartments are rented for 10 months, instead of a whole year, and then rented to pilgrims for the remaining two months. “These are our high seasons. We make more money renting apartments during Ramadan and Haj than throughout the whole year,” said Abu Ahmed, a landlord in Makkah. “We ensure that tenants are well aware of this arrangement before they sign the contract,” he added.
Talha Al-Anzi, a schoolteacher who did not complete a year in his apartment in Makkah, said he was taken by surprise when the landlord asked him and his family to leave the apartment, because he wanted to rent the whole building to Haj pilgrims.
"I spent a huge amount of money on maintenance and repairs when I first moved into the apartment. However, I did not have a chance to enjoy the apartment, because the owner asked us to move out as quickly as possible,” he said. “I asked the owner where would my family live during this month, and whether he would give me money to rent an apartment elsewhere. He refused,” he added.
“This problem should be addressed by the Ministry of Housing, because we should not be living like this. There should be rules against evicting people in this manner,” said Al-Anzi.
Saad Ansari is another renter who was forced to stay at his uncle’s house with his wife and children until the month was over. “I have been doing this for three years now. I got used to playing this game, where I collect my family’s items and move into another family member’s house for a month. But I’m getting sick and tired of this ordeal, especially since my children are growing older, and they do not fit in one room anymore,” he added.
Ansari said it was not possible for him to rent another apartment, given the rising cost of rent and his finances.
Aziza Al-Hamed, a divorcee who lives with her children in a two-bedroom apartment in Al-Adel district in Makkah, said the pilgrims ruin her apartment every year. “This is the second year I have been undergoing this. Last year I went to Jeddah and spent the entire month with my children, among family and friends. When I came back, I was horrified at the state in which my apartment was left,” she said. Al-Hamed spent a lot of money on renovating the apartment, including repairing the broken doors, and repainting the walls.
On the other hand, businessman Hatem Al-Hindi rents his three-story building to pilgrims and charges them SR 2,000 to SR 3,000 per pilgrim. “I make a lot of money during the Haj season, as a surprising number of people come to live in my house. Sometimes five to eight people stay in one room,” he added.