ABU DHABI // Many developers of high-end residences in the capital have been passing off storage space as quarters for maids.
Some developers describe such spaces as utility rooms to get planning permission, then change the description to maid’s room in advertising material.
These rooms are smaller than the minimum room size set by Abu Dhabi Municipality.
Husam Oubari, an engineer in the municipality licensing department, said developers were likely to have marked the areas for storage during the approval phase to get permits.
“Marketing can be misleading – maybe the official permit is for storage but in reality or practice it is labelled as a maid’s room.
“Storage does not need to meet any specifications. Any size would be permitted.”
The municipality has set minimum specifications for space inhabited by a person. Mr Oubari said rooms must be at least seven feet (2.1 metres) in any given dimension, with a net floor space of not less than 70 square feet (6.5 square metres).
“This is the international standards that Abu Dhabi has adopted voluntarily for a few years, and officially as of October 1.”
However, there is no check to ensure uninhabitable spaces are not being pushed on the market as habitable rooms.
A number of tenants who viewed apartments with a “maid’s room” or what is also commonly labelled as “servant’s quarters” have been astonished by the lack of space.
Kerstin Smith, an Abu Dhabi resident, said some rooms could not comfortably keep a pet.
The majority of these false maid’s rooms were found in new high-end towers and complexes in the capital.
Leslie, a resident of Etihad Towers, said she and her husband leased a three-bedroom apartment and were told it came with a maid’s room. After finding the room to be too small for a bed, they approached the management for clarification.
“The maid’s room does not fit a bed and [I] have been told by Etihad Towers management that we need to get a custom-made bed to fit the space and … ‘you will just have to get a short maid’,” said Leslie. The room measured 1.9 metres by 1.94 metres, not including the bathroom.
The Etihad Towers management said the units were not marketed with maid’s rooms and the rooms in question were registered as utility rooms.
Similarly, Damac’s floor plans made no mention of maid’s rooms. The developer said that it was “the prerogative of each owner to decide how they choose to utilise the space within the apartment”.
However, estate agents have been marketing tiny rooms as maid’s quarters in Damac buildings, including Oceanscape on Al Reem island.
Ben Crompton, co-founder of Crompton Properties, said these spaces were designed to serve as a maid’s room whether developers were willing to admit it or not.
“Maid’s rooms always have an attached bathroom – there is no reason to have a storage room with an attached bathroom. If it has no bathroom then it is for storage or a study,” he said.
“In the UAE you cannot rent a three-bed without a maid’s room.
“If they are maid’s rooms and they are too small, then it is the developer’s fault, of course. If they are storage rooms then you need to take a look at how the developer is marketing them as agents often follow their lead.”
Aldar’s floor plans on its official website list maids’ quarters that are too small. These are included in its brochures for Sun and Sky Towers. Al Raha Gardens residence floor plans also list maid’s rooms in official floor plans.
After the developer’s public relations agency was contacted by The National, the reference to maid’s rooms in said floor plans were removed.
Aldar has been contacted a number of times but declined to comment in all instances.