RAS AL KHAIMAH // Tenants and homeowners in an exclusive residential resort have been told they will be charged for air conditioning consumption last winter - whether they used the AC system or not.
Bills were issued on June 1 for AC use from January to March at Al Hamra Village in Ras Al Khaimah.
The company that runs the development, Al Hamra Real Estate, said that the bills are based on each home's electricity consumption during that period because it has no way of calculating AC use in individual properties until meters are installed.
But residents who did not use their air conditioning during that period are unhappy. "I tried to reason with them. I told them from January to March the weather was relatively cool and I didn't use my AC," said one tenant from Ghana who has lived in Al Hamra Village for nine months.
"So why are they going to charge me for something I did not use? They didn't seem to have any meaningful solution to the problem."
Another tenant from the UK, who has lived in the development for seven months, said: "Why has it taken Al Hamra Real Estate four months to advise that there would be an additional charge?"
He said he had not switched on his AC during the period. "I personally think it's illegal because you're using a formula. If I haven't had my air conditioning on, I'm getting charged for everyone else."
A company spokesman said it had not been possible to calculate the costs any earlier because most tenants paid their electricity bills direct to the Federal Electricity and Water Authority.
"Therefore we did not have information on what the consumption of each apartment was," the spokesman said.
"It took some time to accumulate this data and therefore the delay in sending he bills."
Other tenants said that once the bills had been explained to them, they reluctantly accepted that they had to be paid.
"I'm not happy with it but I can now see their position," said a North American tenant who has lived there for two years. "They have to get some of the money back.
"I don't really like the idea that it's attached to the electricity use but to be honest I don't have a better solution and they don't have a better solution.
"Up until now everybody's been getting a free ride."
Most tenants said they were not opposed in principle to fees, but were concerned about transparency.
The Al Hamra Village spokesman said the company would provide information about its costs upon request.
"The electricity consumed by common-area facilities is metered and so are the units consumed by each apartment, the rate of electricity is standard depending on who the service provider is, therefore, the whole process is completely transparent," he said.
The tenant from Ghana said Al Hamra agents had not held public meetings over air-conditioning bills because they were concerned that residents would raise other issues.
"If they can meet us, maybe we have suggestions, maybe we will have better solutions," he said. "It's a very bad image for Al Hamra and RAK as a whole."