DUBAI // Dozens of residents of the Golden Mile apartments on the Palm Jumeirah were banned from entering the complex this week in a dispute over unpaid service fees.
Landlords and tenants have repeatedly objected to the high charges, which range from Dh35,000 to Dh100,000 annually.
Several residents with unpaid dues said security guards prevented them from entering the car park on Sunday evening.
Jo Parker, a British tenant, said her landlord had not paid the fees because of incorrect billing.
"Security tried to stop me driving in but I drove past the cones," said Ms Parker, who works in real estate. "This is ridiculous. If there is a dispute, they can't penalise tenants. We're paying our rents. We can't be locked out of our apartments."
An Emirati, MA, who said he had paid more than Dh20million for a penthouse, agreed.
"How can a company that is basically picking up garbage and cleaning corridors deny owners entry?" he asked. "These must be the highest maintenance fees in the world - higher than Manhattan and Hawaii.
"Can a maintenance company be allowed to act like the police? How can they legally stop us from entering? Only when the police were called were we allowed to enter.
"Everybody is worried because this can keep happening."
Legally, owners cannot be prevented from entering their property, according to the property lawyer, Ludmila Yamalova.
"As per the federal law, the definition of freehold ownership is an unencumbered and absolute right to use your property as you see fit," he said. "Under the Dubai strata law, the recourse possible against defaulting owners is only through a civil case by the owners' association and not by the association manager or the developer."
The Golden Mile is a row of residential buildings on the trunk of The Palm.
There was no immediate response from Novus Community Management, which oversees the development.
A spokeswoman for IFA Hotels & Resorts, which developed the project, said it was not involved in daily operations.
In earlier interviews, Novus management has said that residents had been alerted to the consequences, so owners were aware of the risks of non-payment.
Notices were placed last week near the lifts and the car-park entrance, cautioning owners with unpaid bills.
"Your access cards to the building via the lift lobbies will be deprogrammed," the notices said. "Access to the car park will be removed."
Last December, residents of Shoreline Apartments, also on the Palm Jumeirah, were barred from accessing the beach and other communal facilities due to a dispute with the developer Nakheel over unpaid service fees. The issue has yet to be resolved.
On Sunday, Golden Mile residents said there was a tailback of cars. Landlords and tenants said they waited for two hours in their cars on the road leading to the apartments until residents called the police to sort out the matter.
Like most Golden Mile residents, MA said he had declined to pay the charges on the grounds that the fees were exorbitant, and there were no facilities such as a swimming pool, gym or beach access for residents. He was asked to pay Dh110,000 in service fees last year for his five-bedroom apartment.
Ras, an owner who paid Dh30,000 in service fees for last year, said guards stopped residents from entering the car park after checking names on a list.
"At one point there was a line of 15 cars down the road and a crowd of people asking why they couldn't enter," she said.
Another Egyptian tenant called for clarity about the fees.
"I was stuck outside for hours," he said. "I actually support my landlord. He is protecting his rights - he has the right to dispute ridiculous fees."
The owner of a two-bedroom apartment said he was billed double the Dh24,000 paid by the previous owner.
"I want to pay fees but this is totally overpriced," said the Arab national, who did not wish to be named.
"We thought living on the Palm would be luxurious but we would have been better off in Sharjah."