Sleepless in Sharjah: single women turned away from apartments
Naima, a single woman, went from door to door on Al Wahda Street looking for a studio apartment to rent. No landlord would lease her one - they wanted a marriage certificate. She went to Abu Shagara. Naima was turned away by every landlord. The refrain was the same: produce a marriage certificate.
“Each and every landlord I met made it very clear that new rules had been introduced in the emirate: single women cannot live in the city. I was asked for my marriage certificate and when I told them that I was single, I was asked to look for an apartment elsewhere,” Naima said.
A Sharjah Municipality official said landlords have misconstrued the new bachelor rule and have been telling their potential and current female tenants that they cannot live in the city if they are single.
Sharjah Municipality introduced the bachelor rule in the beginning of April. It is aimed specifically at single men who have a monthly income of less than Dh4,000 per month and allows them to live either in the industrial areas or at an accommodation provided by the company.
The rule was implemented to prevent bachelors from overcrowding apartments and villas in residential areas. According to the new rule, a studio apartment can accommodate up to three people, a one-bedroom apartment can have four people, a two-bedroom apartment can have six, while a three-bedroom apartment can have up to nine people.
But a number of landlords have not fully understood the concept of the bachelor rule and think that single women are also covered by the regulation, and can no longer live in any part of the city.
Naima said she was shocked that every landlord demanded to see a marriage certificate. She is starting her new job in Sharjah soon and is in dire need of securing a home close to her work place.
“I eventually found a landlord who was willing to hold an apartment for me for one month as long as I deposited Dh1,000. I am staying with friends for now, but I am waiting for my brother to travel here and register the tenancy contract in his name because he is married. I have no idea what else to do.”
Many single women who are living in Sharjah have encountered the same problem. Their landlords have told them that they will not be able to renew their tenancy contract unless they produce a marriage certificate.
Irene Muita, who lives in Muwaileh near National Paints, said her landlord recently told her that once her tenancy contract expires in November, she cannot continue living in the building unless she shows a marriage certificate.
“My landlord said he did not have a problem having me in the building. He said he is only following the new rules. If that’s the case, why isn’t there any mention about it in the media because I was surprised to find out that such a rule actually exists,” she said.
Khalid Al Shamsi, Director of the Consumer Protection Department at municipality, confirmed that landlords have been misinterpreting the bachelor rule. He said he has had complaints from several women of different nationalities who all face eviction merely because they are single.
“The bachelor rule does not apply to single women at all. Landlords do not have to ask for tenants’ marriage certificates. We have placed advertisements about the [bachelor] rule and landlords should not fabricate new ones and claim that we are responsible,” said Al Shamsi. He stressed that landlords have the right to know their tenant’s marriage status only if they want families to rent the building.
“Women who face eviction or are turned away because they are single should visit our department, obtain a copy of the rule, and explain it to the landlord. If the landlord continues with this claim, then we will take action and explain the rules out to him in detail,” Al Shamsi said.
Should women have to produce a marriage certificate to rent an apartment? Tell us what you think.