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Sharing is Scaring – Widespread by illegal, expats crowd under one roof to save money

 “Asimple knock on the door of her two-bedroom apartment at night throws Malee - a girl from the Philippines - in a state of fear.

She starts to gasp and her heart beats faster until she sees who the nocturnal visitor is. Malee thinks it is the police wanting to raid the apartment which she shares with a male colleague and a friend. Sharing accommodation with people of different genders is forbidden. Malee has a reason to worry.

Col Adel Al-Hashash, PR and Moral Guidance Director of the Ministry of Interior, warned about mixed accommodations, saying it was against Kuwait’s public morals. “Strangers from opposite genders should not be living under one roof as this may expose them to legal vulnerabilities.

It is not acceptable behaviour in our community, and those who live this way may face sanctions,” he told the Kuwait Times. Hashash also noted that raids on apartments would continue on a daily basis. “The raids covered all the areas and were aimed at checking any illegal activity. The police have the right to enter an apartment but they should have a search warrant for the purpose. In case a resident refuses to open the door to the police, then they could be in trouble.

The police is doing their job according to the law, so people should not be afraid,” he added. “In case of any abuse of authority by the police forces, the people can always complain. And of course it’s always better to have a lawyer. Also, each case is different, and it depends on the person mostly. Police’s treatment could be different with those who have a record of criminal behavior,” concluded Hashash.

To sponsor a family in Kuwait, the salary cap imposed by the government is KD 250. However, no accommodation is available any longer for the said KD 250 amount. That is why many individuals opt for shared accommodation, which is illegal yet widespread. Most buildings only accept couples with marriage certificates, but in order to help them cope with the skyhigh rent, they propose a solution by subletting their space. Many buildings are rented only to families but the managers often close their eyes to the law and accept bachelors anyway. However, the recent security checks and intermittent raids on flats has raised an alarm for many families who share their flats with bachelors. Alvin from India shares his flat with a compatriot to save some money. He rented the flat for KD 310. His friend rented one vacant room for KD 120.

Alvin draws KD 400 as salary from his job as an executive chef. He has two children with his Filipina wife. To save some money, a close Kuwaiti friend sponsored his mother for a working visa, enabling them to save some amount for a housemaid, and this enabled his wife to work and help him tend to the family’s needs.

The combined family income now is KD 650. “The problem is that even if you try to be frugal, it is difficult to live on the remaining KD 460. I need food, I need to pay tuition fees for my children. I have to pay a monthly amortization for my house in Kerala. So by the end of the month, I have no savings left at all. What is worse is that I cannot have anyone else in my flat,” he said. Teresa, a Filipina, got a flat in Salmiya for KD 300. She works in a salon and has been drawing a KD 250 salary. She is thankful that at times, she earns more than KD 100 extra as tip from her customers. Her husband, a Filipino who works as a taxi driver, is able to bring home KD 250- 300 but this is an erratic source of income, and sometimes is less than KD 200.

They have two children. “If I pay the whole amount for my flat, what is left for the family? So, the only way to survive in Kuwait is to accept boarders. So I am sharing my flat with two families. My share comes to KD 100 and the rest is paid by the two families. Yes, it gets crowded but this is the way to survive in Kuwait,” said Teresa. Suhail from Bangladesh is also a tenant living in a three-bedroom apartment in Farwaniya. He has four children. One room is occupied by his children and the other room is for the couple. One room was vacant, so he thought of sharing the apartment with a compatriot. He has a small cellphone business. “The amount I saved by sharing the flat was divided among my family and my wife’s family back in Sylhet.

They needed our support, so sharing a flat meant that some families could survive,” Suhail stressed. Since the government doesn’t allow sharing accommodation, the KD 250 salary cap for a family is already a big question. But let’s say that some family’s combined income is KD 500 since the wife could also help. Here is the simple math. Consider that a family pays KD 300 per month for a flat, then it would leave KD 200 as the remaining amount.

What if the family also has two children? Food expenses for them would be KD 150, leaving only a measly KD 50. In such a case, one better forget about sending them to school since the school here also charge a gargantuan amount for providing education.

By Ben Garcia and Nawara Fattahova

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This article was published on 07/06/2013