KUWAIT: The haris is called the king of the building for many reasons. They are envied for their free accommodation, but mostly for the huge amounts of money they make from their tenants. Raj was a haris for over five years in Salmiya. An Indian from Kerala, Raj maintained several buildings owned by a Kuwaiti, where he learned some of the ugly tricks practiced by some harises in Kuwait. “I was told by some of my colleagues here that if some tenants are not desirable enough – probably not paying on time – they can easily pressure them and within a month, they will vacate the building,” he said. “One trick was to make their life miserable by switching on and off their electricity,” he said.
According to Raj, this way they make money accepting new tenants. Nowadays, reserving a flat will cost a new tenant from KD 80-KD 250 or even more depending on the location and place you want. Harises call the term ‘arboon’, which is actually a bribe. ‘Arboon’ in Arabic means reservation fee, but apparently this is not the meaning of arboon for some harises in Kuwait. “If we see a tenant really likes the flat, we ask them to pay more.
They will readily pay because probably their job is closer or the school of their children is down the corner. The amount paid will be mine alone because the only concern of my boss is the rent of the flat, and what they like is for their flats to be fully occupied,” Raj added.
Kuwait Times spoke to a Filipino family that has shifted four times in one year. Gerronimo earns little more than KD 200 a month, which is frequently late, while his wife earns the same, but their rent eats up half of their combined salary.
Once when he had a family emergency back in the Philippines, he skipped paying a month’s rent and was forced by the haris to vacate the flat. “We left because we were asked to do so – I had to borrow money from a friend to pay and get a new place,” he said. “The new haris demanded KD 80 as ‘arboon’ and we had to pay KD 240 in rent for the new place.
Again I asked my company to spare money so I could pay that amount. But after only five months, I got a notice that the rent will increase to KD 300 – the owner personally came and told us that if we can pay, we shall stay, if not, we’ll have to vacate or we’ll be dragged by the police out of the building, so we left and looked for a new place,” he said. An Indian family in Khaitan also experienced harassment from the haris when they were asked an additional amount in rent. “The building is only for families, but there were Filipinos using some flats with multiple people in it.
One day the owner found that he was paying extra for their water and electricity, so they told us to pay an additional KD 40 in rent. We were obliged to pay because we don’t want to leave the place since we are close to the school of my kids, but after a few months, the haris told us to pay an additional KD 20 again.
I refused to pay this amount. But we experienced several forms of harassment from the haris, like switching off our water and electricity. I remember two nights we didn’t have AC in the middle of summer, so we looked for another place, only to pay arboon of KD 100,” he said. But if you are a bit generous to the haris, the story will be different. For some families, since the rent is high, they will rent a flat but will sublet rooms to other people. Josie for example has been renting her flat for years now in Maidan Hawally, but sublets two rooms of her flat. “I know what the haris wants – money – so whenever my tenants leave, I immediately inform the haris about it and I pay him a bribe like KD 10 so he is aware that I am accepting a new tenant. From the new tenant, the haris will also get an extra amount for garbage or sometimes just to allow him to place a satellite dish.
I know this is a bribe, but this is the way it now works in Kuwait, so we have to deal with it,” she said. Raj, the former haris, also reveals ugly secrets of some buildings in Kuwait allegedly being used for prostitution and some rented by Kuwaitis for their mistresses. “The locals will rent a flat for their other women. The haris knows about the activities but they are quiet about it because they are being bribed,” he said. While some dirty tricks are being played by some harris in Kuwait, there are prevailing laws regarding the issues mentioned. Concerned individuals can certainly file case at the Ministry of Justice; in fact, many are resorting to paying or settling their house rental problems in the local court.
By Ben Garcia