Dozens of Barwa City residents in Qatar have said they may be forced to move out of their homes after receiving notice that their rents would be going up by 30 percent.
The affected individuals reside in the 15-building Park Residences community, which is managed by Tanween Residences and contains some 800 units. It is part of the larger Barwa City development located between Mesaimeer and the Industrial Area, close to the Abu Hamour Church Complex.
According to tenants who spoke to Doha News, the company has sent out lease renewal notices warning of a hike of several thousand riyals a month.
A portion of that increase is a new charge for utilities, which is being added to tenants’ base rent, the landlord confirmed to Doha News.
But some residents say that the cost of electricity and water only represents a fraction of the hike, and have accused their landlord of “cashing in” on the long-awaited completion of neighborhood amenities such as a grocery store.
The development opened in mid-2013 and enticed its initial tenants with rents of around QR6,500 for a two-bedroom unit and QR7,000 for a three-bedroom flat.
“These were promotional rates to attract initial tenants and to promote this brand-new development in the market,” a spokesperson for Tanween Residences who asked not to be named told Doha News.
He added that rates varied greatly between units, depending on elevation, size, layout and other factors.
Those rental rates, which did not include utilities such as electricity and water, rose slightly last year. Now, residents whose leases expire at the end of March have been told rent would be increased to the tune of QR2,000 to QR3,000 a month.
Speaking to Doha News, some said they were shocked at the increases contained in renewal notices distributed at the beginning of this month.
“I really can’t afford this much,” said a Pakistani resident who said she was told the rent for her two-bedroom unit would increase from QR7,000 to slightly more than QR9,000.
Because the new rate is inclusive of utilities, tenants would no longer receive separate bills for services such as electricity and water.
But some said that the additional cost should only amount to QR500 to QR750 a month, leading them to suspect their landlord is raising the rent as more amenities in the neighborhood open.
For its part, Tanween Residences said it made the decision to add a utilities charge because many tenants had failed to transfer their electricity accounts into their own names. Others had complained about administrative headaches, such as delays in receiving their bills.
The spokesperson added that other affected tenants may be given a longer notice period of three months. Residents need to notify Tanween Residences of their intention to renew or leave at least one month prior to their lease expiring.
Finally, the Tanween Residences spokesperson denied rumors that it was trying to force individual families out of their buildings so it can rent large blocks of units to companies for employee accommodations.
He said many affected residents are renewing and that the company has a waiting list of prospective tenants who are interested in moving in and paying the new rate.
In December, a Lulu hypermarket belatedly opened its doors. Additionally, many families have enrolled their children in the nearby Newton International School or the Newton British School.
This has caused some parents to worry about the challenges of finding additional classroom spaces as well as new accommodations within their budget if they choose not to renew at Barwa City and the pay the higher rent.
Even some residents who aren’t immediately affected say they are concerned.
Nazima Ali, who moved into her two-bedroom unit in late 2013, said she currently pays QR7,200 a month and fears she will be hit with a large increase like her neighbors when her lease expires.
“We’d be forced to move … We just hope they keep the rent same, or keep it within 10 percent,” Ali said. “It would be very tough for us to decide as to whether to leave or to stay. They know that the children are settled … Now we are trapped.”
The initial rental rates offered by Tanween were welcomed by many families in Qatar, where rising real estate prices have pushed rental rates in some parts of Doha beyond the reach of some residents.
Despite delays in completing the promised amenities, several residents described Barwa City as a pleasant place to live. There are open places for children to play, in contrast to the denser built-up areas of Doha where apartments often open directly onto busy roads.
The rental increase notices come several months after a a Central Municipal Council member called on the government to impose a cap on residential rent increases. There’s precedence for such a move; in 2008, landlords were limited to a 10-percent increase on tenants renewing their leases. Those provisions expired in 2010.
However, there’s been no official response to the most recent suggestion as rents continued to rise, outpacing salary increases in many cases.
“It’s totally unaffordable for people here,” Ali said. “They can’t increase rents by that much. They are playing with our emotions.”