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‘Protect rights of tenants’ Legislative role sought to decide cap on rents

RECENTLY an attempt by a landlord in Abbasiya to hike up rent met with resistance, leading to a proxy war with the tenants, who complain their water connections have been cut off and the lifts closed. This week, the Arab Times invited voters to vote on the subject of escalating house rents in Kuwait, and ways to control it.

A majority of voters preferred a legislative intervention, where laws dictate a cap on rents depending on the size, facilities and location of the apartment. 66 % of the voters supported this view.

Speaking to the Arab Times, respondents stated that there is a need for stricter laws to protect the rights of the tenants. “As a majority of tenants are expatriates, their unwillingness to get into a collision course with landlords is taken advantage of by the latter.” The recent conflict between tenants and a landlord in Abbasiya that made news in Kuwait began when the landlord increased the rent twice within a year. “This was way beyond what we could bear. It looks like there are no laws in this land. When we protested and took the legal course, the landlord resorted to underhanded techniques of harassing us by cutting off our water connections and closing down the lifts. “We are living with our families and children.

Every day we are carrying water in buckets from outside and up the stairs to our flats. It is an eight storey building and there are senior people, who find it extremely hard to climb up the stairs. The authorities aren’t helping us.” Other respondents said that it’s not a matter of creating laws, rather a matter of applying it. “The law states that rental contracts are valid for 5 years; however, we see landlords hiking rents as and when they wish.”

About 17 % of the voters felt that the solution to the problem lies in allowing expatriates to own properties. “Places like Dubai permits expatriates to own properties. This gives expatriates a sense of belonging, and freedom from skyrocketing rents.” When expatriates become landlords the tenants are more confident to engage in legal disputes, paving the way for a fairer and a more equitable system.

About 8 % of the voters preferred residential units to be provided by the ministry. “This will keep greed under check, unlike in the case of private entrepreneurs. When ministry dispenses apartments to expatriates, the laws will be respected.” Other opinions ranged from controlling the flow of expatriates into the country to balance demand and supply. The shortage in supply is leading to spiralling prices. Harsher penalties for violators and a laissez faire system where market decides the price were the other suggestions, which had the support of a small minority of voters.

By: Valiya S. Sajjad Arab Times Staff

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