x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Contractual clarity on parking spaces

Developers, owners and tenants all deserve to know where they stand and who pays for what

In the latest in a long-running series of disputes involving tenants, landlords and property developers in Dubai, residents at Jumeirah Lakes Towers have been told that their previously free parking spaces will now cost them Dh8,000 a year for rental or Dh50,000 to purchase.

As reported in The National yesterday, tenants have cried foul, saying the charges breach their leases, or at least their understanding that parking would be provided at no extra charge. In response, the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre, JLT's master developer, said discussions about payment for parking spaces, involving tower developers and owners' associations, had begun in June last year. However, it conceded the process had "not always been properly explained to the final end user".

And so the hefty fees, and the reality of being barred from parking in their usual spots, came as a shock to residents when security personnel began enforcement a few weeks ago. Further installation of barriers has been delayed until after Ramadan, but the issue won't go away.

Some tenants see the situation - which also affects business owners and their employees - as a matter of the goalposts being shifted in the middle of the game.

Obviously, the rule of caveat emptor ("let the buyer beware") could be cited - although leases that lock in contracts for a year greatly restrict renters' ability to vote with their feet. Given the acknowledgement that so many tenants were left in the dark, it is reasonable for them to ask that parking remains free for the duration of these leases and then negotiated as part of the renewal process.

Simply setting a date by which all residents will have to pay does nobody any good. Tenants may pay, but only under duress, and the developer's reputation suffers. At the same time, if developers or owners are bearing costs they intended to pass on, they have a right to recoup them.

Adding to the confusion, though, is that some condo owners who live on-site don't even know if they own a parking space.

Given the potential for similar problems to occur elsewhere, the entire issue of residential fees requires legal clarification. One appropriate solution would be the adoption of standardised sales contracts and residential leases where all charges are clearly set out, along with who is responsible for their payment.