While most residents anticipate the incoming football spirit and exciting matches, others are eyeing the enormous profit that is expected to come with the one-month tournament – and some plan to let nothing stand in the way of such revenue.
As the competition nears closer and closer, residents in the Gulf state have reportedly been given eviction notices, asked to sign short term lease agreements, or on the flipside, 24-month lease agreements, or have even had their rent significantly increased.
Many have attributed this to the World Cup, believing that landlords are seeking to capitalise on the profits visitors will bring to the country, rendering living conditions for the long-term resident a difficult ordeal.
Doha News spoke to some of those affected by the evictions and changes in rent agreements.
Capitalising on the World Cup
Mohammed, a German father of three children, has been living in Qatar for almost 15 years. His house in Doha has become more of a home to him than his own property in Germany. Every morning, he drives the children to school in just 10-minutes and goes to work before dropping them off at Karate practice later on in the day.
After 15 years of life in the Gulf state, he tells Doha News, “you never think about leaving.”
More than just the convenience of the location for his family, the memories that were made and the tight community that was built make it worth every effort.
That was until one paper changed everything. Soon enough, Mohammed found himself with less than two months to look for somewhere else to live so that outsiders visiting the country could have sufficient accommodation for the World Cup in November.
“Imagine after years of living, they kick you out suddenly for a one-month tournament. There were no negotiations. They said the whole compound will be designated for fans, and just kicked us out like it was nothing,” Mohammed said.
With less than 170 days until the grand tournament, stories such as Mohammed’s are becoming increasingly more common by the day, revealing the realities about accommodation for the global event.
As authorities continue to assure accommodation for all visiting fans, landlords have in recent months seized the opportunity to benefit from colossal prices during the World Cup, though residents say this is at their expense.
On average, proprietors can raise rent prices up to 10% a year, according to Shahzad Ali, a strategy executive based in Doha.
As of 2022 however, the government removed the cap on prices during the World Cup period to attract more revenue, essentially giving landlords free reign to charge up to 15,000 to 20,000 QAR a night.
“They’re [landlords] trying to capitalise off the World Cup period where a price rise cap has been removed by the authorities. It’s a cost-benefit analysis and for small landlords, the business case makes sense to ask the tenants to leave,” Ali told Doha News.
Whole compounds evicted and rented
Landlords have also been allegedly ‘renting out’ whole compounds, including occupied ones, and designating them for World Cup rent, leaving families who still live in the houses in despair.
“The landlord said there’s nothing he could do. We even tried to negotiate a higher price, but he said nothing will budge. The compound is taken, and this is the last word,” Mohammed said.
“I spend all of my days looking for another place, but all the compounds around have either spiked the price by 30% or are fully occupied. My work is in this area, my kid’s schools, and even friends. Our whole life. How can we find that somewhere else now?”
Several members of the community have shared the same experience, with some using social media to request help from ‘World Cup exploitation.’
Meanwhile, some others have been ‘lucky’ enough to negotiate the price without being evicted, however the new costly rent has threatened their financial stability. Rose and her husband, Scott, were given two options: leave by the end of August or pay an extra QAR 3000 a month.
“The first thing I did was ask my young boy if he was okay with us moving, but he kept crying. It broke my heart. All of his friends are our neighbours, and he is not really good at communication, but he grew up with those people, so to him they are family. And that’s hard to find elsewhere,” Rose told Doha News.
The parents tried to negotiate the price, but the landlord reportedly told them that if they don’t like it, they should leave. According to the couple, they were advised to either pay or find somewhere else to go, as it was better for [the landlord] to earn more money during the World Cup.
The family had no choice.
“We cut [back] on so many things to make it work, but it is unfair. Why is the government okay with this? What will happen after the tournament is gone, with all the empty spaces after they kicked people out?” the husband asked.
“We’re just a small inconvenience to them along the way. Who cares, right?”
Another Lusail resident told Doha News that his landlord increased the price by almost 35%, spiking the rent from 10,000 QAR a month to 13,500 QAR with only two months’ notice.
The same two options were provided: either pay the increase or pack all your belongings and leave in 60 days time.
Other families were reportedly forced to sign a two month lease in addition to the increased payment, or else they were told they would be evicted.
Such moves serve as a ‘safe-guard’ for landlords to exploit the situation and guarantee their revenue.
To them, it is a win-win. For the families, however, it is a forced and one-sided agreement.
“I’m sure they have also been affected in a period of vacancy,” Ali said, noting this is also expected after the World Cup.
The strategy executive suggested landlords are attempting to “lock the tenant down for two years, as they believe that is the value they [should] get during this period. So as a cost-benefit analysis, I do not think there’s anything untoward,” Ali added.
Enough accommodation, but who is paying the price?
The Gulf nation is hoping to attract more than one million visitors during the World Cup, set to kick off from November 21 to 18 December this year.
A December report by the Associated Press [AP] indicated that leading hotel chains in Qatar are reportedly running low on accommodation for visiting football fans, implying that the nation of 3 million residents may not be ready for such a crowd.
The American news agency said its findings were based on “extensive searches” of “leading hotel chains and aggregation websites”, in which it found only one property that still had availability for every day of the tournament.
While it appears that concerns on accommodation were heard, affected families believe the efforts poured in to ensure availability for visitors has been granted at the expense of those who call Qatar home.