The World Cup boom drives residents out of their homes - VybezTV
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The World Cup boom drives residents out of their homes

Qatari landlords looking to profit from the upcoming World Cup have turned a growing number of mostly foreign tenants out the door, sometimes with only a few days’ notice.

More than a million football fans are expected to flock to the capital Doha during the tournament in November and December, putting a huge strain on the small Gulf nation.

According to AFP, landlords who have spotted an opportunity to raise rents are showing “no compassion” and the market is dominated by “greed”, said a representative of a property company who wished to remain anonymous.

Reem, a foreigner who works for a large Qatari company, was told she had a week to leave her flat.

The woman, who uses a pseudonym to avoid reprisals from her employer, told AFP the owner of the apartment block wanted the dozens of flats rented to her employers evicted so they could make more money during the World Cup.

“We felt humiliated,” Reem said.

The company has put Reem and other employees up in a hotel, but they can only stay there until just before the tournament starts. After that, they will move to “temporary” flats, she said.

“Leaving our home with all our belongings in bags and boxes to go to a hotel room was a disaster”.

Other tenants in Doha told AFP they also faced the choice of either paying more rent or moving out.

– Sky-high prices –

Flats in the tower where Reem lived are being offered on for $1,700 a night during the World Cup, with a minimum stay of 14 nights.

In the two years she lived in the flat, the rent was $2,500 per month, according to Reem.

Most fans will stay in hotels, flats, cruise ships and desert camps booked through the official World Cup portal.

Organisers have stressed that there will be enough accommodation for all fans in the emirate, which has a population of only 2.8 million.

The Qatar government acknowledged that there was an “increased demand” for accommodation during the World Cup, but did not comment on individual cases. A government official said that any tenant “can lodge a complaint with the office of the Rent Disputes Settlement Committee”.

To ease the situation, FIFA recently released thousands of hotel rooms it had reserved, which experts say could lead to a drop in World Cup prices.

Some fans are looking to the open market for luxury flats or better locations near the stadiums, and the prices being advertised for some properties in Doha make it clear that owners have high hopes.

On Airbnb, flats for two people are being offered for $2,500 a night.

A villa for the entire 29 days of the World Cup costs fans who book through the online platform at least $13,000 – but prices can run into the hundreds of thousands.

– Very high” demand –

Some Doha residents are offering their flats for rent and leaving Qatar for the month.

Adel, who offered his small flat 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 statement from the landlord approving the sublet.

In recent months, rents have also soared for tenants whose leases are expiring.

While Qatari law allows for an increase of up to 10 per cent on a lease renewal, average rents in some districts of Doha have risen by 40 per cent in the past year, according to Anum Hassan, head of research in Qatar at international consultancy Valustrat.

A Western diplomat in Doha said embassy staff have demanded higher salaries to be able to afford 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 like there are people taking advantage of the situation, but that happens everywhere in the world when there is an event like the World Cup.”

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