Cracking down on ‘irking’ bachelors

Muscat, April 2 – One of the recent trending reports has been the crackdown by Muscat Municipality on ‘bachelors’ living in residential areas. As usual, there has been a flurry of questions like who these bachelors are, and which are the areas they cannot live in.
Although there have not been specific answers to these queries, the municipality made some clarifications.
“Doctors, engineers and other highly educated professional expatriates can rent villas or flats in residential areas,” said a civic official, adding, “When we say bachelors it means labourers.”
However, a municipal circular states that students, professionals and technicians can rent flats in multi-storey buildings, but not in villas. A maximum of two people per room will be allowed in apartment flats.
The municipality has started issuing eviction notices following a court order on complaints that ‘bachelor presence’ had caused disturbance and posed social and security problems to families.
The civic authorities, as part of executing the court order, have issued an ultimatum to the so-called ‘bachelors’ or single men to vacate their residences if they are staying in family areas.
Ruwi, Hamriyah, Wadi Adai, Al Ghubrah, Muttrah, Darsait, Seeb and Mabela are some of the areas in which bachelors are staying in large numbers.
An inquiry by the Observer found truth in the complaints by families.
Ruwi, which had been a much sought-after place till a few years ago by the middle-income families because of its proximity to affordable shopping, is no more as safe as it was before due to a large influx of bachelors in the area.
‘Single-room accommodation for bachelors’ boards are a common sight in many areas in the city. Many building owners find it lucrative to rent out flats or villas to bachelors as they get more rent.
Mohamed Wasim, manager with a leading real estate company, said: “We don’t allow bachelors in the building because we follow the rules and regulations and respect the privacy of families residing in the building.”
Bachelors also posed a security threat to families who felt unsafe living next to them.
Geetha Gopan, a working woman who is staying in central Ruwi with her two children, said, “Bachelors are creating lot of problems in the area. Very often I find it difficult to walk alone as they gawk at me.”
Deepak Patel, a businessman living in Ruwi, said these bachelors create a lot of mischief, including playing loud music and bringing friends to their apartments. They also involve in many illegal activities.
“The number of bachelors has increased in the area because of easy availability of old buildings vacated by families, thanks to a large number of new properties that have come up in the city,” said Nasser al Wahaibi, a building contractor.
In many cases, owners of old buildings allow the bachelors without any lease agreements, he said, adding many of these buildings are in a dilapidated condition and are not suitable for habitation.
“Sometimes, they sublet the rooms to more people by dividing them using cardboards without any authorisation,” he added.
According to Article 131 of the Municipality Buildings Act, totally or partially dilapidated structures that pose danger to residents, neighbours and passers-by should be removed immediately.
“Should they fail to respond to the notices issued in this regard, the municipality shall have the right to evacuate and demolish the building as per administrative procedures, claim the cost from the owner or his agent and impose any other legal penalties,” the article points out.
According to Salim al Ghammari, a Muscat Municipality Council member, buildings which are old and unsafe for living should be demolished and not allowed to be rented out.
“Many old buildings, including those belonging to different government departments, have already been pulled down in some parts of the capital, especially in Ruwi,” he told the Observer in a recent interview.
Any owner found to be renting out buildings that have developed cracks and are not livable, should be booked, the councillor said
He said that residents can complain to the municipality if they find safety violations in any building.