Bad tenants

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“SORRY, but I never rent to Saudis,” or “I will never rent to Saudis anymore,” are two distinct statements relaying the same meaning that are not said out aloud against Saudis in a foreign country for it would be construed as a racist statement. But what is it called when a similar statement or sentiment is expressed by Saudi landlords and apartment building owners within our country whenever there’s a situation with a Saudi tenant, who does not want to pay his rent, does not respect property or just dilly-dallies every time it is rent time.

Our countrymen’s reputation in this respect is very bad when it comes to renting properties, and ironically it is also a fact that owners and real estate agents are most vociferous against renting to Saudis. It is a contradiction that is acceptable only here where the same man who is calling to empower Saudis in the job market or give them more opportunities is the one who will block his fellow countrymen from renting his property.

Taking a leaf out of Shakespeare’s famous quote ‘past is prologue’, many of the owners revisit the past experiences in citing their present actions and view. As a result, many Saudi home and apartment building owners have become increasingly hesitant to comply whenever a Saudi national applies to rent an apartment. To them, it is a great risk knowing for a fact that Saudi tenants are not to be intimidated, unlike expat tenants, and will become permanent headaches if the tenants decided to stop paying rents.

The general understanding among owners is that they know how to blackmail them by not paying especially when they take them to court for defaulting on rent and in some cases not bothering to pay for months. The point is made in the example that I highlight here in this article.

Recently, I was in a group of people that had building owners along with a host of others at a wedding. As is the wont the talk veered about in every direction, when, suddenly one of them started complaining about one of his Saudi tenants giving him a hard time. As it this was a cue, other owners sitting in the same table too took up the litany of complaints and came out in support of the Saudi owner even without hearing out the issue. They even went on to blame the owner for renting his apartment to a citizen because, and according to their real estate opinion, they are troublemakers.

They all agreed that an expat tenants are an ideal choice, simply because they are peaceful and more straightforward and punctual when it comes to payment. They even laughed when commenting that the last place an expat tenant wanted to see is ‘the inside of a court’ in case they have a real estate disagreement with the landlord, because they do not want trouble. In the past once the issue was in the court, the case would drag on for many months, if not years before justice is delivered.

I was with a friend of mine this week who had begun the process to file a lawsuit against a Saudi tenant to collect his rent, not paid for months, and evict him by force. According to my friend, he had rented an apartment unit to a Saudi tenant despite his father’s warning. Three months ago, the tenant began stalling and not paying his rent giving various excuses. Fed up with him, my friend finally asked him to leave the apartment and forget about the late rents. Taking advantage of this offer, the tenant began stalling even more, giving different dates to evict the apartment, but showing no clear action of leaving. My friend then gave him final warning — leave or face a lawsuit. The Saudi tenant simply told him to do so — saying that he will not pay nor leave.

This example is one of many others of landlords suffering under the hands of troublemaking tenants. It is rarely an expat, who makes trouble or refuses to pay intentionally, because like I said, the last place they want to see is the court. This reminded me of the time long back when I was searching for an apartment for my friend, the building owner, once he knew we were Saudis, simply said, “Sorry, I do not rent to Saudis.” The racism against Saudis when it comes to renting out a unit is an act of great injustice against other Saudis, who are committed and honest. It is like the case of rejecting the whole barrel just because of a few bad apples. Collective punishment on this issue should end. Strict rules should be applied to all owners who wish to use their buildings for rent.

The best solution to this problem is the ‘Ejar’ system, an advanced electronic network that offers integrated solutions to the rental-housing sector and puts all the parties in the rental process in one place, allowing easy search for a housing unit with various specifications and prices. This system will be implemented very soon. The landlord and tenant will not deal with each other directly as this system will work as the middleman between them. The contract between the landlord and tenant through this system will give power to the victim. A victim can go straight to the executive court and skip many steps in the general court in filing a lawsuit. Bad tenants are a great headache. They should be blacklisted.

— The writer can be reached at mahmad@saudigazette.com.sa Twitter: @anajeddawi_eng


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