x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Buyers protest against tower clause

Some buyers in the world's tallest residential tower are protesting the developer's plans.

About 90 per cent of the 676 apartments in the Torch in Dubai Marina have been sold.
About 90 per cent of the 676 apartments in the Torch in Dubai Marina have been sold.

Buyers in the world's tallest residential tower are organising protests against what they claim are unfair practices by the developer.

Select Group is starting to hand over apartments this month in the Torch, the 343-metre tower in Dubai Marina. The Dh665 million (US$181m) tower will surpass the Q1 tower on the Gold Coast of Australia, currently the world's tallest residential tower at 323 metres.

But some buyers on a long-term payment plan in the Dubai project are refusing to sign an addendum to their contracts, which the developer is requiring before they will get their keys.

The new clause requires the buyers to pay thousands of dirhams in service fees upfront, in addition to giving the developer their voting rights on the homeowners' association.

"We're pretty much being held to ransom," said a buyer, who asked not to be identified. "It's a complete nightmare."

However, the developer said the change is a standard procedure and most buyers were moving ahead with their purchase plans. The long-term payment plan gave buyers 15 years to pay for their apartments.

"We are making sure there is legal protection in case of default by the buyer," said Rahail Aslam, the chief executive of Select. "We are at risk if they occupy the apartment and there is no remedy for non-payment."

The addendum also gives the developer the right to sell the contracts for their remaining instalments to a third party.

About 275 of the buyers in the project used the long-term plan, Mr Aslam said. Buyers on the plan had the option of paying the full purchase price at handover, he said.

UK investors have organised a meeting for Monday in London.

"What we're fighting is, how can they change the original contracts?" said the buyer.

About 90 per cent of the 676 apartments in the Torch have been sold, mainly to European and Middle East buyers between 2006 and 2008 at the height of the Dubai property boom, Mr Aslam said.

Buyers typically paid between Dh720,000 and Dh1.7 million for apartments ranging from 900 square feet to 1,700 sq ft, Mr Aslam said.

The Torch's claim to the tallest residential tower designation may be short lived. The Princess Tower, also in Dubai Marina, has already topped out at 414 metres. Originally scheduled to finish this year, the Princess Tower is now scheduled for handover in January, a company spokesman said.

Both the Torch and Princess Tower will be passed by another Dubai Marina tower under construction, the Pentominium, which is planned to reach 516 metres. The Pentominium is at least a year from finished.

Including the Torch, Dubai is already home to six of the 10 tallest residential buildings in the world, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building at 828 metres, includes apartments but it is not considered residential. To be included on the council's list, a tower must be at least 90 per cent residential.