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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Homefront: 'Can a building manager increase chiller fees by 60 per cent?'

The Dubai resident says a new management firm gave tenants no notice of the increase

A roof top AC unit. The reader wants to know if it is "acceptable" to raise fees without warning. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo
A roof top AC unit. The reader wants to know if it is "acceptable" to raise fees without warning. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo

Our building management was recently taken over by a new company. They sent us the new AC bill, increasing the price of chiller usage from 0.8 per ton-hour to 1.23 per ton-hour, which represents a 60 per cent increase overnight plus VAT. There has been no communication to tenants about this, only the bill with the huge increase. I raised a complaint with the company but nobody has responded. Is this acceptable practice? Are they actually allowed to do this without any notice or increase in service level? The level of service has actually decreased since they’ve taken over and we’ve raised many complaints with them about this, so it’s not like there is a new improved system to justify the increase. JS, Dubai

It is clearly not acceptable to raise fees/charges overnight, especially to this level, and there should definitely have been some sort of communication from the management company to the owners informing them not only of the charges but the reason for the increase too. To update yourself on service charges, the Real Estate Regulatory Agency publishes an index. much like the rental calculator, that helps ascertain what is an acceptable increase in service charges. You can visit www.dubailand.gov.ae, click on "most used services" then "service fee index". Once you fill out the information the service charge amount is displayed.

My advice would be to follow up on your original complaint in person; that way they cannot ignore you. Perhaps enlist the help of other residents too by going as a group, this may also have a greater impact. If, however, you get nowhere with the building management, you can always raise a complaint at Rera to investigate this further.

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My tenancy contract is expiring on December 31, after starting on January 1 this year. I informed my landlord verbally in June that I planned to move out. I also sent a written notification on November 5. Now the landlord is telling me that he will not give me back my security deposit as I delayed tell him by four days. Is it mandatory to inform a landlord two months before moving out? ME, Dubai

Firstly, please check your contract; if it states you have to give notice for not renewing, then that is what you need to do. If it does not say anything, then technically you do not need to give any notice for not renewing. The important thing to note here is that if tenants do not give notice when not renewing their contract it is rightly deemed rude by landlords. This is more likely to cause issues with the tenant perhaps leading to holding onto the deposit.

Allow me to clarify the timeline of the current law: Law 26 of 2007, the law that governs the relationship between landlords and tenants, does have a clause that states 90 days' notice should be given by tenants to landlords in the event of non-renewal. However, law 33 of 2008 amended certain clauses of the former law and did away with the need to give notice for non-renewal.

Given the above and the fact that you have verbally explained you will not be renewing, following up again in writing too, will mean the landlord is not within his rights to withhold your deposit for the reason given. If after more conversations with the landlord, he still Insists he is in the right, you would have no alternative but to file a case at the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee. Remember though, this will cost 3.5 per cent of the rent amount. However, if you win the case, it is quite common that the cost of filing the case is also awarded to you.

Mario Volpi is the sales and leasing manager at Engel & Volkers. He has worked in the property sector for 34 years in London and Dubai

The opinions expressed do not constitute legal advice and are provided for information only. Please send any questions to mario.volpi@engelvoelkers.com