The nightmare of finding a flat in Kuwait

Nawara Fattahova

Everyone will agree that moving into a new house is a tough experience that needs a lot of effort. I’m one of those who consider moving the worse nightmare ever. It’s not only the fear of change or a new place, or packing the huge amount of stuff I have, but also the process of finding a suitable house. This experience is even harder for a single woman. Many landlords have various restrictions. Some of them don’t rent to Kuwaitis, and many refuse to rent to single people.

It has been a very common practice for many years that “bachelors” don’t live in buildings for families. But what is strange is that now landlords are even refusing to rent a flat to single women. Five out of 20 houses I visited refused to rent to a single woman, in different areas including Salwa, Rumaithiya, Qadsiya, Jabriya and others. For a divorcee, it would be even harder to find an apartment.

It’s tough to find a suitable flat, and going through this experience for the first time makes it more difficult. Time pressure due to the short notice of the current landlord to leave the house made the search quick and intensive. With only a one-month notice to leave, I had to find a house in two weeks, so visited five to seven buildings daily.

I was constrained in my search due to a certain budget, the locality and minimum space required. Furthermore, I had a special problem with height, as I was looking for a high ceiling above 3 meters, which was very rare in all the houses I visited. I searched for ads of flats for rent online and in the newspapers. Only two out of the almost 35 flats that I visited were posted by the landlord directly. All the rest were posted by real estate agencies. It turned out they get a commission from both parties – the landlord and the tenant – although in fact they only provide a service to the landlord, as the tenants are searching by themselves.

These agents ask for half the rent value in commission. In some buildings that are not dealing with an agent, the haris may ask for a commission too, also around half the rent. One of the agents asked me to pay the rent from the middle of this month although I want to move next month, which is in fact the same as taking a commission of half the rent.

I had to make a decision within two weeks, so I agreed to rent one of the flats that I visited. I stopped looking further for flats and paid a deposit to sign the contract by the end of the month, when paying the rest of the rent. When paying the deposit, I found out I had to buy the air conditioning units myself. Also, only then was I told about the commission.

Moreover, after signing the contract, they told me they will not paint one of the rooms. At this point, it was too late to start searching for a new house, and I was already convinced that this was the most suitable flat for my needs. I was forced to do this job at my own expense, but I was lucky as a friend helped me due to his dealings with a painter in his work.
Although the price of land and properties dropped last year, which also caused a drop in rent values, this isn’t seen in all areas. While some apartments – especially big ones – have seen a fall in rent, rates for smaller ones like studios or one-room flats have remained the same or even increased.

The most ridiculously overpriced flat was in Bayan, where the landlord who newly built this tiny flat in the yard of his old house asked for KD 360. The 5×5-m area was turned into an “apartment” of two bedrooms and a living room. The whole flat was in fact the size of my current bedroom. Two other flats were a disaster – so filthy and old, I wondered how could anyone live in them. The agent who accompanied me to one of them claimed that the landlord will paint it and replace the sink and toilet, but the staircase and yard were also tired and dirty.

Finding an ideal flat is impossible if you have a limited budget. There will always be something wrong or missing. Either the rooms are very tiny, or the rent is high, or the building doesn’t have an elevator and the flat is on the third floor. No place to park the car is one of the most serious problems, and nowadays even buildings with large flats for families offer only one parking spot.

By Nawara Fattahova
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