(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Ever since Sharjah Municipality announced the doubling of residential rent contracts' attestation fees - from 2 to 4 per cent of the annual rent, staring August 1 - long queues and huge crowds have become the norm at leasing contract attestation centres.
The massive rush is by residents racing against time to avoid paying the doubled fees. The Municipality had also announced doubling the fee for lease agreement documents, from Dh50 to Dh100. Commercial contract fees have also been hiked to 5 per cent. This has resulted in a staggering number of tenants landing up at the centres for contract attestation - from 450 per day since the announcement was made on July 18, up to 2,500. Today, 5,000 people are expected, causing the Municipality to expand the services in the rental regulatory department and extend working hours till the month end, to handle the queueing crowds. Tenants whose leasing contracts expire in September and October have been allowed to renew and attest it now at the current, lower fees - 2 per cent of the rental value, said Omar Al Sharji, Director of Customer Services and Inspection at Sharjah Municipality. There are four attestation centres in the municipality premises in Sharjah Industrial Area 5, in addition to Tasheel offices and nine other centres that operate until evening. From September onwards, the attestation services will be provided for 12 straight hours at the Tasheel office, from 8am to 8pm. Why the fees were hiked... The Sharjah government had conducted research comparing its attestation fees and operation costs with other emirates'. The study revealed that the municipality's attestation fees was less than the cost of services provided to residents, leading to the government's decision to increase fees. Tenants queueing up at the Industrial Area 5 centre told Khaleej Times they wanted to save at least some money this year, since they would end up paying double next year onwards. Mohammed Mirgany, a Sudanese tenant living in Al Butainah, said his studio flat's contract fees - Dh300 right now - would go up to Dh600 next year. "I reached at 5am to stand in line, hoping the service would be done by 10am, but now it's 12pm and I'm still here because so many people got here before me!" Mirgany's contract expires on August 15, but he decided to renew and attest it now to avoid paying the doubled fee next week onwards. Mohammed Abdul Aziz, an Egyptian resident living in a one bedroom flat in Al Nabbah, said: "I used to pay Dh650 for attestation, and my contract expires in September, so I decided to rush and renew it as it will be difficult for me to pay the doubled fee of Dh1,300." Qassim Mohammed, a Syrian resident from Al Nasiriya said he hadn't renewed his contract for several years, but decided to pay it all off at one go in order to avoid the hike. "From now on, I will renew the contract annually and on time to avoid paying a lot of money, which I can't afford," he said. Jacob John, an Indian resident in Abu Shagara, said: "I was here at the centre on Sunday for my office's rent contract renewal, and now I'm back today for my residential contract." He, too, arrived at 5am in order to make the attestation.