x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Cooling miseries at JLT spreading

Disputes over unpaid bills have left more than 300 additional tenants at seven Jumeirah Lakes Towers blocks with their air conditioning cut off.

View of the Dubai Marina from JLT Metro Station in Dubai.
View of the Dubai Marina from JLT Metro Station in Dubai.

DUBAI // Some residents of Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) have been without air conditioning for more than two days as a dispute over unpaid bills spreads to additional buildings in the complex. Tenants and owners of Indigo Tower returned to their homes Tuesday evening to find that their air conditioning had been cut off. When they contacted the service provider Palm District Cooling (PDC), they were told that there were outstanding payments due on their accounts and that their service could be reconnected only when they had paid.

"We were suffering. We were steaming," said Katy, a Slovakian who has lived in Dubai for 10 years and would give only her first name. "It's unfortunate it happened this time of year. Now it's the middle of summer. It's really hot. It's tough." The disconnections came after more than 100 apartments at another JLT building, Lake Point Tower, had their air conditioning switched off this month after its developer, Distinguished Real Estate, said owners had failed to pay outstanding service charges and bills. More than 300 additional flats have been disconnected in seven JLT buildings, said a person familiar with the situation.

Katy, who lives in JLT's Al Sheraa Tower, said she had never received an air conditioning bill during her eight months of residence as they were being sent to her UK-based landlord. She paid about Dh4,000 yesterday to reconnect the service while being responsible for only Dh1,000 of that amount, she said. Still, paying the charges did not guarantee having service restored promptly. Chirag Vyas, a Lake Point Tower apartment owner, said he paid all his bills on Tuesday but was yet to be reconnected as of yesterday. When Rebecca Sunderland, his 24-year-old Irish tenant, visited the apartment to test the system it was not operating properly.

"The coolest it got was 28 degrees," she said. "There was no air blowing from the vents. It was like blowing through a straw. We couldn't stay there." Cees Bastiaalsen, a 51-year-old Dutch expatriate who recently relocated to Dubai from Oman, was living in one of an estimated 38 residences affected in Indigo Tower. His air conditioning was reconnected Wednesday night after his New Zealand-based flat owner paid an outstanding bill of around Dh7,000. The experience, he said, was not the friendly welcome he had hoped for.

"The landlord said he hadn't received any warning," said Mr Bastiaalsen, who began renting the two-bedroom apartment last month. "My landlord came back a week ago and we agreed that this month we would transfer the DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) and du accounts and that at the end of August we would transfer the PDC account. But then they cut off the AC." PDC has said the decision to cut service came after a lengthy campaign to inform residents of overdue bills.

"Reminders to nonpaying customers, which were made over an extended period, to settle their outstanding payments were unsuccessful," it said in a statement. "Palm District Cooling remain committed to immediately reconnect chilled water services upon receipt of outstanding payments in full." PDC is part of Palm Utilities, which is owned by Dubai World's investment company, Istithmar World Capital. It would not confirm the number of apartments or buildings affected or elaborate on the notification process for disconnection.

The company spent some Dh600 million in constructing the three plants that provide cold air to the JLT complex, and one of the plants is not yet operational, said a former employee who requested anonymity. One apartment owner claimed many were unhappy with having to pay a fixed capacity charge every month as part of their bill whether they used the service or not. "My consumption charge is extremely low and yet I have to pay hundreds [of dirhams] in capacity charges every month, plus a fixed amount for the meter to be read," said the owner, who asked not to be named. The owners' contracts stated they were unable to opt out of using the service unless they sold the apartment or died, he said.