A lopsided story of Real Estate scheming

Running across the streets and roads of Male’ can sometimes be a waste of time, but if you keep a keen eye on a story – sooner or later you start to sniff something of worth.

It was roughly a week back, I came across a hardened man in his late forties through a friend, who had run into a hassle regarding the apartment he had taken on rent. It was a single bedroom with attached toilet and a compact sitting room, which the man had taken for rent under a budget of 12,000 with the same amount deposited as an advance.

A year had passed since he took the secondary level abode, and the landlord had conditioned a bump of advance to MVR 15,000 and monthly rent shifted to the same amount – this came without any renovation or any amenities to the room. A plain bump on the rent after a year’s circulation.

The second story came in the form of a distant relative living with his wife and two children at a two-roomer somewhere in Maafannu district. The family took the apartment under an agreement of one-year period, however they were asked to vacate the lot after six months since moving in. The reason? The landlord’s family was shifting to Male’. The family was given a period of one month to vacate.

Upon close inspection, it was revealed the agreement gave unsolicited authority to the landlord to order an eviction whenever he pleased – without any reasonable clause. Absurd segment in the agreement, which unfortunately for the tenant was agreed upon when he signed on the document.

A third story, I was blessed with came from a source I frequently use to get scoop. A landlord had accumulated an amount of MVR 30,000 as advance for a two room apartment, guaranteeing the lot to be ready within 3 months’ period. The tenants waited for more than 6 months before they attempted to reach the landlord – but to no avail.

While the three stories have a different plot to it, the theme is the same. Real Estate. These are some anecdotes coming from the ill-fated tenants taking up a living in Male’ for various reasons – be it medical, academic or employment. All fallen victims to the grand scheming of a lopsided real estate business surging with landlords with almost complete authority without any consequences.

To continue further with the topic could mean giving reason for anger attracted at me, however with anonymity of the sources kept intact, this felt like a story that needed to be told.

It seems that an unhealthy tradition of real estate businesses has popped across the capital city – granting landlords with complete flexibility and room to maneuver any written agreement towards a lot, land or apartment.

Conventionally businesses serve to mutually benefit the two parties involved – the buyer and the seller. However, when one puts in an eye of detail into the matter, they would witness the business area riddled with discrepancies and biased misconduct throughout the many transactions taking place in purchasing or renting out apartments.

Several attempts were made to get official statements through government bodies that are expected to monitor and assess the real estate business – arguably the Housing Ministry being the prime policing unit to case and filter out any illicit or malpractice in the field. However, an officer of the top hierarchy from the entity assured that, while some regulations are put in place regarding building and construction – real estate is a realm untested and unspecified in any statutory acts or constituted. For the sake of keeping their heads in place and jobs secured, I have chosen to place anonymity on the source.

Another individual, working at a real estate firm confirmed my doubt, upon delivering me with a blow of “no institutionalized act” in real estate law. Meaning no specific act has been concocted or a bill passed that would grant a mutual authority for both landlords and tenants, without any bias involved.

To detail this, it is to elaborate that while anyone with a piece of land is free to develop an apartment complex and rent out the apartment – no laws or regulations are in place that would limit the landlord’s flexibility of placing advance payments and rents to their hearts’ fill.

Some foreign countries – for instance Malaysia has strict conditions of a rent range (depending on the class and status of buildings) for their locals and foreigners. Anyone found to breach these price ranges faced severe consequences. This is government intervention at its finest, and most benefiting. To think such an approach cannot be introduced to Maldives is to believe the next man to go around the world in 80 days cannot be a Maldivian.

Due to the complex nature of this subject, I spoke to several individuals to exact out their experiences and opinions as to why no favorable changes have been introduced to the real estate realm of Maldives.

“Rent prices and these ridiculous standards will not come to a cease desist unless society elites, who are benefitting from squeezing the ordinary joes dry are not taken out from the parliament house” an audit officer who had worked in the country branch of world’s second leading audit firm, slammed the criticism.

His indirect hint was towards a considerable amount of lawmakers, who have been for years alleged to own several properties across the capital city – of which they enjoy a handsome pay every month through tenants.

The validity of this, is yet to be confirmed. However, the significance of this statement was put into further exploration, when several other individuals I came across had responded with explanations falling into the same line as the one mentioned above.

One may tell a lie, two may concoct a rumor, three may form a propaganda – but the opinions of some 50 different individuals, diverse in age, experience and work, might as well be telling the truth and perhaps secretly hoping for an uprising.

While concerns such as these are floating in air, without the severity of it dying neither the frequency of it being killed off – it perhaps is high time for relevant authorities, associations or organizations to intervene this power-play of landlords and put a substantial full-stop into the biased nature of misconduct in real estate business that somehow seem to leech off of tenants without giving them the benefit of doubt that the whole system has become flawed.

The best hope lies in the fat cheque collecting lawmakers to consider the depth of the situation and consider the long term setbacks that might arise from an economical aspect which is imbalanced from the start. Arguably speaking, a business or an economical field would continue to boom if the demand and supply are adjusted accordingly. This is one case where the demands are not met properly from the supply end – while the demand end has less bargaining power than the one supplying.

To think if this business model is not flawed is to think a loaded gun would be harmless.