Switching flats tough for tenants in Muscat

Even as supply of new flats continues to outpace demand in the capital, tenants are finding it difficult to move to new places in Muscat. As per rules, either party (property owner or tenant) is required to give a three-month notice if they want the rent contracts to be renewed or cancelled.
Property managers were known to be generous with old-time tenants who wanted to move out, or those who had to relocate due to unforeseen circumstances.
As property managers are finding it difficult to find new tenants for vacant flats, they tend to become uncompromising with the existing tenants.
A resident of Darsait who has been making “futile attempts” to move to a new place for the past few years, spoke of his dilemma. “My landlord wants a three-month notice if I want to terminate the contract. At the same time, no landlord is ready to give a three-month free waiting period for a new tenant to move in,” said Mahesh Prakashan.
“The only option is pay for those three months, but that is unaffordable and unreasonable for someone who is paying RO 300-RO 350 a month for a two-bedroom flat.”
In the past couple of years, Prakashan has been giving a three-month notice to his landlord. “When I find no suitable flat after expiry of the contract, I continue at the same place.”
Prakashan said the landlord was willing to marginally reduce the rent but “not ready to let me go unless I find a replacement”.
Mehboob wanted to shift to a more spacious three-bedroom flat as his mother-in-law joined him recently. “The property manager has not been considerate. He is not ready to give me a six-month contract instead of the usual one year.”

His landlord says there is no provision for a short-term contract. “I too have been giving a three-month notice but haven’t got the timing right so far.”
Mehboob said it is natural for tenants to move to a new place because of the “fatigue factor” or family needs.
Landlords and property managers have a reason too. “A few years ago, tenants went to the government seeking protection from sudden evacuation notices from property managers. Today, they want us to relax the rule that once protected them. It is unfair on us because current market conditions make it difficult to attract new tenants especially in old properties,” said a general manager of a property management company, who did not want to be named.
“I have seen both sides in the last ten years. I am a tenant too,” he said.
He said the landlords and real estate managers have to be reasonable in following rules. “People have to relocate at short notice over work-related or personal reasons. We need to look into issues on a case-by-case basis and have a mechanism that is not a loss for both sides,” he said.
The problem is more widespread in places such as Darsait, Muttrah, Ruwi and Wadi Kabir as most commercial establishments have shifted to Ghala and Athaiba, making the need for relocation a necessity.

Vinod Nair