DUBAI // Residents in the Shoreline apartments on the Palm Jumeirah are looking to the authorities after their developer blocked beach, pool and gym access for anyone living in flats with unpaid service fees.
The ban comes as Nakheel prepares to charge annual membership fees of as much as Dh12,000 for a family of four to use the facilities.
Both requirements have especially angered tenants who owe no service charges and rented their units on the assumption that they included pool, beach and gym use.
"They can't penalise tenants for service charges going back five years," said Alison, a British resident, who has been banned from the beach. "I'm not in arrears for anything."
Like other residents, Alison chose the relatively pricey community because of the facilities and has already paid her rent to the middle of next year.
"I am paying to have access to the beach, pool, gym, and I don't have that any longer," she said. "I don't know where to go or who to talk to."
At the root of the problem is a dispute between the developer and owners that is being played out in freehold properties across Dubai, over which side owns these common areas and how to charge and collect service fees.
Some owners have refused to pay what they consider fees that are too high for insufficient maintenance, while others are unable to pay, unwilling or unaware.
And in several buildings, developers have claimed ownership of gyms and pools and sold memberships for their use to both residents and outsiders.
The fee requirement at Shoreline took effect three days after the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Rera) was expected to issue its decision on the matter.
Nakheel originally planned to impose the policy at the start of the month but delayed to allow Rera to issue its ruling, which is still outstanding.
"It's the Land Department/Rera who is adjudicating on the event," said an owners association board member of one of the 20 buildings in the development.
"I think they will make a decision fairly quickly because they can't let it fester any longer."
He and others warned that the reputation of Shoreline and other Nakheel properties and even the broader property market could suffer as a result.
"It will be a fairly international talking point," said the association board member.
Louise Houston, 44, a British resident whose landlord owes Dh76,000 in service fees, cautioned that other developers might take the same tack as Nakheel.
"Who's to say that any other property company doesn't suddenly decide to charge residents for the use of their pools?" Ms Houston asked.
Blocking access at the start of school holidays worsened the effect, she said.
"They implemented this right at the time holidays have started, so none of my children can go to the pool."
The membership fees, which will take effect in the new year, include a discounted rate for residents.
Owners who are leasing their properties may opt to pay the "resident" fee to use the facilities. Their tenants would then have to pay the costlier "non-resident" fee.
Residents must pay Dh2,000 for an individual membership, Dh5,000 for a family of four and Dh1,000 for each additional child.
Non-residents will be charged Dh5,000 for a person, Dh12,000 for a family of four and Dh2,000 for each additional child, according to posted notices.
Nakheel, a developer owned by the Dubai Government conglomerate Dubai World, declined to comment.