Qatari landlords eyeing profit from the looming World Cup have been kicking out a growing number of mostly foreign tenants, sometimes with just a few days’ notice.
More than one million football fans are expected to descend on the capital Doha during the November-December tournament, putting a strain on the tiny Gulf nation.
Landlords who have spotted an opening to increase rents “show no pity” and the market is dominated by “greed”, said a representative of a real estate company, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Reem, a foreigner working for a major Qatari company, was told she had a week to leave her apartment.
The woman, using a pseudonym to avoid reprisals from her employer, told AFP the owner of the block wanted the dozens of apartments rented to her employers emptied so they could earn more during the World Cup.
“We felt humiliated,” Reem said.
The company has moved Reem and other employees into a hotel, but they can only stay there until just before the tournament kicks off. They will then move into “temporary” apartments, she said.
“Leaving home with all our belongings in bags and boxes to go into a hotel room was a disaster.”
Other tenants in Doha told AFP they were similarly forced to choose between paying more on rent or leaving.
– Sky-high prices –
Properties in the tower where Reem used to live are advertised on booking.com for $1,700 a night during the World Cup with a minimum stay of 14 nights.
In the two years, she had been in the apartment, Reem said rent was $2,500 a month.
Most fans will be staying in hotels, apartments, cruise ships and desert camps booked through the official World Cup portal.
Organisers have insisted there will be enough accommodation for all fans in the emirate of just 2.8 million people.
The Qatar government acknowledged there was “increased demand” for accommodation during the World Cup but did not comment on individual cases. A government official said any tenant “may file a complaint with the Rental Disputes Settlements Committee Office”.
To ease the crunch, FIFA recently released thousands of hotel rooms it had reserved, which experts have said could push World Cup prices down.
Some fans are turning to the open market for luxury apartments or better locations near stadiums, and the prices advertised for some Doha properties highlight owners’ sky-high hopes.
On Airbnb, apartments for two people go for $2,500 a night.
A villa for the full 29 days of the World Cup will cost fans booking through the online platform at least $13,000 — but prices can go into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
– ‘Very high’ demand –
Some Doha residents are putting their flats up for rent and fleeing Qatar for the month.
Adel, who listed his small apartment on Airbnb for $900 a night, said “demand was very high” when he first advertised it.
But he had to cancel the reservations after Airbnb asked him to provide a landlord’s statement approving the sublet.
Rents have also risen sharply for tenants coming to the end of their leases in recent months.
While Qatari law allows for an increase of up to 10 per cent for a lease renewal, average rents in some Doha districts have risen by 40 per cent over the past year, according to Anum Hassan, head of research in Qatar at international consultancy firm Valustrat.
A Western diplomat in Doha said embassy staff have demanded increased salaries to meet their rent payments.
“Rents … will stay high for a while,” said Nabil Ghorra, a 59-year-old Lebanese-American who lives in Doha’s upscale Pearl District.
“I feel that there are people taking advantage of the situation, but this happens all over the world when there’s an event” like the World Cup.