Parking and extortion

Nawara Fattahova

The issue of parking is a recurring problem in Kuwait. Although a law was issued about 10 years ago obliging any new building located in crowded commercial areas such as Salmiya, Hawally, Farwaniya, etc to provide underground parking for tenants as one of the main conditions to get a license, landlords don’t always respect this law.

The Municipality inspects buildings during construction for underground parking lots, but many landlords afterwards convert this space into warehouses to rent out to companies. So the basement never serves the purpose for which it was built, and tenants face the problem of finding a place to park.

Many areas in Kuwait suffer from this nightmare, and Farwaniya is the worst affected by this problem, especially due to its dense population. Usually, the parking space in front or around the building is enough for only about half of the tenants, so the rest search for a place near the building, which is usually an empty yard, or if they’re lucky, a parking lot of a school or public building.

Some enterprising harises are exploiting this problem to extort additional money from tenants. A new trend has emerged as exemplified by one problem in Farwaniya. A haris of a building there has ‘taken over’ the yard in the middle of a number of buildings, and set his own rules on this state property. He is renting parking spaces in this yard to tenants of the neighborhood on a monthly basis. He charges KD 10 per month for each vehicle, and this amount includes washing the car. A car wash usually costs KD 5, so basically he charges KD 5 extra.

Sameh, a tenant living in Farwaniya for about six years, didn’t know about this illegal practice of the haris, as he always parks his vehicle in front of his building. “One day I came late and didn’t find a place in front of the building, so I parked my car in the yard. The next morning I found one of my side mirrors broken, in addition to scratches on the side of the car,” he told Kuwait Times.

“I didn’t know who did it and I couldn’t accuse anybody. Then I told the story to the haris of the building where I live, and he told me about the other haris who has taken over the yard. He also told me that it’s not only me, and that this happens to any vehicle that parks in the yard without paying the monthly charges. Many other victims have complained of flat tires when parking there,” added Sameh.

Despite repeated complaints, no one is now able to park freely in the yard and anyone who leaves his vehicle there without paying the extortion will end up with a damaged vehicle the next day.

By Nawara Fattahova

This article was published on 16/02/2018