Qatari landlords eyeing profit from the looming World Cup have been kicking out a growing number of mostly foreign tenants, sometimes with just a few days’ notice.
More than 1 million soccer fans are expected to descend on the capital, Doha, during the tournament from next month to December, putting a strain on the tiny Gulf nation.
Landlords who have spotted an opening to increase rents “show no pity” and the market is dominated by “greed”, a representative of a real-estate company said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Reem, a foreigner working for a major Qatari company, was told she had a week to leave her apartment.
The woman, using a pseudonym to avoid blowback from her employer, said the owner of the block wanted the dozens of apartments he has rented to her employers emptied so they could earn more during the World Cup.
“We felt humiliated,” Reem said.
The company has moved Reem and other employees into a hotel, but they can only stay there until Nov. 15, five days before the tournament starts.
They were told they would then move into “temporary” apartments, she said.
“Leaving home with all our belongings in bags and boxes to go into a hotel room was a disaster,” she said.
Other tenants in Doha said they were similarly forced to choose between paying more rent or leaving.
Properties in the tower where Reem used to live are advertised on booking.com for US$1,700 a night during the World Cup with a minimum stay of 14 nights.
In the two years she had been in the apartment, Reem said the rent was US$2,500 a month.
Most fans would be staying in hotels, apartments, cruise ships and desert camps booked through the official World Cup portal.
Despite some concerns, organizers have insisted there would be enough accommodation for all fans in the emirate of just 2.8 million people.
To ease the crunch, FIFA released thousands of hotel rooms it had reserved, which experts have said could push prices down in the coming weeks.
Some World Cup visitors are turning to the open market for luxury apartments or better locations near specific stadiums, and the prices advertised for some Doha properties highlight owners’ sky-high hopes.
On Airbnb, apartments for two people go for US$2,500 a night. A villa for the full 29 days of the World Cup would cost fans booking through the online platform at least US$13,000 — but prices can go into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Some Doha residents are putting their flats and houses up for rent and fleeing Qatar for the month.
Adel, who listed his small apartment on Airbnb for US$900 a night, said that “demand was very high” when he first advertised it.
However, he had to cancel the reservations after Airbnb asked him to provide a statement from his landlord approving the sublet.
Rents have also risen sharply for tenants coming to the end of their leases in the past few months.
While Qatari law allows for an increase of up to 10 percent for a lease renewal, rents in some districts of Doha have risen by as much as 40 percent over the past year, said Anum Hassan, head of research in Qatar at international consultancy firm Valustrat.
A Western diplomat in Doha said that embassy staff have demanded increased salaries to meet 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 that there are people taking advantage of the situation, but this happens all over the world when there’s an event” like the World Cup, he said.
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