The Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Abu Dhabi founded the Rent Dispute Committee almost two years ago, in an effort to resolve many unsettled disputes between greedy landowners and tenants who have been scammed or evicted illegally.
Real Estate is not really my beat at the paper, but I was called to sit on and report on a seminar aimed at raising awareness about Abu Dhabi's Rent Law No.20. The seminar was held in Arabic (which is understandable), and live English translation was available to non-Arabic speakers. However, I have my doubts about how serious the Committee is about spreading its message. Many of those who are scammed by greedy landowners and real estate agents are middle to low income earners in the city, particularly Philipino and Indian and Pakistani expats who cannot afford alternatives to run-down housing. They are also the forgotten majority in this city, who have no idea who to turn to when their rights are violated. Most of them are not even aware of such a Committe, and those who are are cautious about resorting to it because they are worried they won't be taken seriously or that the process would take too long.
Today, as I walked into the office, I was called on by a softspoken man with a clipping of my story.
Usually, I would be afraid of a stranger calling out my name in the newspaper's office. His case was different. "I need your help, ma'am", he pleaded. His eyes were filled with helplessness- akin to that of a child who is in desperate need of a provider. I sat and listened to his heart wrenching story; how his family is being bullied by the landowner's sons (or younger family members) in efforts to evict him and his wife and two children from their 2 bedroom penthouse.
"Please try to help me. What kind of father would I be if we are left on the street with my two daughters."
As I did some serious digging today, I came across many people (not-so-surprisingly, most are underpaid expatriates from South Asian countries) with similar stories. I wonder who will really listen to them. I'm on it Jo, I promise.