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Posted On: 23 September 2020 02:00 pm
Updated On: 27 July 2022 04:16 pm

Is living in a partitioned villa or apartment legal in Qatar?

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It is illegal to partition villas in Qatar according to the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, who warns that legal action will be taken against anyone who tries to modify their villas without permission of the Ministry and without obtaining the required approval to avoid numerous health and safety violations including the possibility of fire outbreaks, and unsafe building methods, along with too much energy consumption.

What exactly do we mean by partitioned villas? Why are they not allowed in Qatar? These are just some of the questions we will answer in this Guide.

What is a partitioned villa?

People/companies often buy or rent out villas or buildings and the partition them so they can create smaller residences within these (perhaps and sublet them out to people who are looking for cheap and affordable housing, without getting prior permission from the relevant authorities like the MME and the Doha Municipality.

Is living in a partitioned villa or apartment legal in Qatar?

Is it easy to get approval from the Municipality to partition or modify a villa?

No, it’s not very easy to get an approval to partition or modify a villa. You first have to submit a complete design of the proposed modifications or alterations that is made by an engineering consultancy. The whole process from submitting the design to the approval is expensive and also time-consuming.

This is probably one of the main reasons why people/companies partition villas or apartments illegally, because if an illegal partition costs, say QR 10,000, one that is approved by the Doha Municipality may cost double that amount.

Considering it’s illegal, can you still find partitioned villas here in Qatar?

Unfortunately, yes. Even though the government has banned partitioned villas, they are still available and are even advertised discreetly. Many people still opt for a partitioned villa or apartment, even though there is a risk of getting caught and fined, because they are cheaper than a normal villa an apartment where just one family can live.

In fact, most of the people who live in partitioned villas belong to a low-income background or are single workers.

According to The Peninsula Qatar:

“The takers are mostly limited income expatriate families and those low-income single workers who get their wives here on either visit or work visas. There are some limited-income expatriates who manage to get their wives here on work visas and they are hired by companies as receptionists, computer operators. Those with less education manage to land jobs in cleaning companies as women-only schools, government offices and bank branches must get female cleaners.”
Is living in a partitioned villa or apartment legal in Qatar?

Is there a law for this?

Yes, Law No. 4 of 1985 on the Organisation of Buildings, which was amended in 2014. Law No. 8 of 2014 has replaced Article 1 and 19 of the Law No. 4 of 1985 with the following:

Article 1
The construction of buildings, an institution of works, extension, heightening, support, demolition or maintenance of the building, a change in landmarks of property through excavations, filling or levelling, or the undertaking of any works such as the connection of services to buildings shall not be undertaken without first obtaining the permit from the competent municipality.

The licensee shall not paint the facades of buildings and the exterior walls of building in colours other than those specified by the competent municipality.

No contractors or others shall execute any of the works stipulated in the previous paragraphs unless the proprietor of the property has obtained the necessary permit from the competent municipality.

An exception to the above shall be simple maintenance works as determined by a resolution of the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning.

Article 19
Without prejudice to any greater penalty provided in any other law:

  1. Any person convicted of violating the provisions of Articles 1/ first paragraph, 12 and 14 hereof shall be sentenced to a fine of not less than two hundred and fifty (250) Qatari Riyals and not more than five hundred (500) Qatari Riyals for each violating square meter, and to a fine of not less than two hundred (200) Qatari Riyals and not more than four hundred (400) Qatari Riyals for each violating longitudinal meter.
  2. Any person convicted of violating the provisions of Articles 1/ third paragraph, hereof, shall be sentenced to a fine of not less than ten thousand (10,000) Qatari Riyals and not more than one hundred thousand (100,000) Qatari Riyals.
  3. Any person convicted of violating the provisions of Articles 1/ second paragraph, 10, 15, 16 and 17, hereof, shall be sentenced to a fine of not less than three thousand (3,000) Qatari Riyals and not more than ten thousand (10,000) Qatari Riyals.

What is the penalty according to the law for partitioning a villa or an apartment without approval?

Contractors and others (arguably, subcontractors or engineers) must carry out the construction of a house or building after making sure that plans and designs are approved by the municipality. (Qatar Gulf News)

If they do not get the approval and still carry on with the partitioning, the amended law prescribes a fine of QR 250 to QR 500 per square metre of illegally partitioned area in a piece of property. And the alterations need to be removed after paying the fine. And if a wall, permanent or makeshift, has been erected, to create an illegal partition, the penalty per square metre will be between QR 200 and QR 400.

According to The Peninsula Qatar, that could mean a minimum of QR 40,000.

To carry out maintenance work, repair, renovation, partitioning, expansion, demolition, digging, or levelling of excavated areas in respect of a housing unit also, the municipality’s written permission is needed. Contractors and engineers, including consultancies, overlooking the above condition will attract a fine of between QR 10,000 and QR 100,000, according to the amended Law Number 8 of 2014.

Is living in a partitioned villa or apartment legal in Qatar?

What is the Municipality doing to stop these illegal partitions?

The Municipality has cracked down on illegally partitioned villas in the last few years, and as a result, there aren’t as many as there used to be. In fact, with partitioned villas not in the market as before, market sources believe there is a shortage of housing that’s affordable for the low-income expat families and the single workers.

The Municipality has become more vigilant and has inspectors who are constantly on the move keeping their eyes on construction materials that are transported from one place to another if they suspect even an iota of suspicious behaviour and will zero in on the illegal construction or modification. As a result, hundreds of partitioned villas and apartments have been honed in on, removed and penalties handed out.

If any contracting and engineering consultancy firm is caught illegally partitioning villas, it will be blacklisted by the Doha Municipality, and its transactions will be frozen until the firm rectifies its status, after which its name will be removed from the blacklist. (Construction Week)

New residential buildings with units that are affordable to rent have also been built. This complemented with better road connectivity, is also playing a part in getting rid of partitioned villas or apartments that are used to sublet.

Cover image credit: PepSell