Why don’t Saudi Landlords prefer Saudi Tenants in their buildings?

A friend of mine has recently switched Jobs to Jeddah from Makkah. I volunteered to help him find a new place to stay as I had been staying Jeddah for quite some time. According to my experience in Jeddah, finding a house would be a piece of cake, however many hours, and a lot of neighborhoods later, we were still at square one. It isn’t until we met one Saudi landlord, that we found out the truth as to why we were not able to find a house for my friend. The landlord informed us beforehand that he had an empty apartment, but as soon as he found out that my friend was a Saudi, he simply refused to accommodate him.[irp]

I was amazed at the fact that the landlord himself was Saudi yet refused to rent out to another Saudi. In other countries, a remark like this could land a person in court, and most probably in jail too. However, nothing of the sort ever happens in Saudi Arabia. I believe that people do not know where or to whom to complain to. I was however not surprised at his honesty, as apartment industry is not under Saudi law. Landlords may do as they see fit, in their own buildings/ houses. This can even include forcefully evicting someone or increase the rent fivefold. The discrimination, however, is not only against Saudis. A Sudanese colleague of mine also told me that he was evicted from his rented residence as the owner did not want a Sudanese resident. The owner of the apartment claimed that my colleague consumed too much water and had a lot of company over all the time.

This issue has been reported numerous times in the Saudi newspapers. The main reasons given by the owners were that locals would refuse to pay rent on time and evacuate the apartment when they were asked to do so. Most landlords prefer expat residents as they pay on time and can be easily removed from the houses. A building owner in Madinah reported to me that this was not a racist attitude but was a precaution that they took because of past experiences. He said that local tenants often did not pay the rent or utility bills and left the houses without doing so. He stated that nobody could have a racist attitude towards his own race and countrymen.

He also said that an investor who has invested SAR2 million for his building does not want any delayed payments or any other headaches. These reasons or excuses can be attended to if only there was a system that protects the tenants as well as the landlords. All Saudi locals cannot be associated with bad tenants just because of a few bad eggs.[irp]

A solution for this late payment could be online rent payment. This way the landlord would not have to chase down the tenant for his rent. If in the case of non-payment, a fine can be imposed to be paid with the bill, just like many other bills that have a late payment surcharge. Tenants who still do not pay up can be barred from all other government services including traveling abroad until the payment is done. Such problems need to be solved with creativity as it is the requirement of modern times and not everything can be dealt with an iron hand.

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