x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Dubai housing fee message is beginning to register

Only one in six homes in the emirate has registered their property values with Dubai Municipality, meaning their municipal housing fees are calculated according to Rera estimates

Dawood Ali, left, is guided through the housing fee process by Adel Garib of Dubai Municipality at Al Twar Centre.
Dawood Ali, left, is guided through the housing fee process by Adel Garib of Dubai Municipality at Al Twar Centre.

DUBAI // Dawood Ali has paid a monthly housing fee of Dh446 for his old apartment in Al Qusais for the past year, when he should have been paying only Dh217.

Only one in six homes in the emirate has registered their property values with Dubai Municipality, meaning their housing fees are calculated by their true values, rather than estimates by the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Rera).

The housing fee, 5 per cent of a tenant's annual rent or 5 per cent of the freehold property value, has been listed on Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) bills since 2005.

The fee brings in about Dh45 million a month and is given to the Dubai Ruler's financial office for redistribution to public service projects.

Mr Ali, from India, said he was registered and only became aware of the error when signing a new Dewa contract on Tuesday. "I didn't realise there was a mistake until Dewa informed me," he said. "I assumed their calculations were correct."

After visiting the new municipality housing fee office at Al Twar Centre yesterday, Mr Ali was promised a refund.

"I was told the deduction would show on my new bill," he said. "The new centre was excellent. The employee was very helpful."

Since opening last month, Al Twar Centre has handled more than 1,500 housing fee complaints, said Khalid Al Mulla, the head of the general revenues section at Dubai Municipality. A second office was opened in Al Manara Centre on Sheikh Zayed Road at the same time.

Despite the law, numerous warnings and awareness campaigns, Mr Al Mulla said records showed only 53,000 of about 300,000 units were registered on the municipality website.

"We urge residents to visit the municipality website and register their property details," he said. "With the new offices, queries will significantly decrease and amendments will show on the customer's next bill."

Complaints have already decreased by almost 90 per cent since last year, Mr Al Mulla said.

To register a property, residents should log on to https://portal.dm.gov.ae/rcapp/register.jsp and answer a series of questions, including name, rent or sale amount, address and Dewa account number.

The amount registered should match the amount on the lease or sales agreement that was filed with Dewa during connection.

Abdulla Hashim, the head of the housing fee unit, said customers should study their bills carefully. If the property price decreased, information should be updated so adjustments were made. Those who have not registered their property values will not be eligible for refunds.

"It's a very simple online process," Mr Hashim said. "Once residents upload details they will be billed correctly. Most of the queries we receive are from those who are unregistered but we will not send them backdated bills."

Mr Hashim said too many residents chose to wait and see whether the Rera estimate was less than their lease.

The department is now working with Dewa to ensure all Dubai units are covered. Another awareness campaign will be launched within two months and billing by default will be delayed until things settle.

"Dewa has account details of those not being billed so we will issue notices and instructions," said Mr Hashim.



Fight goes on, for what it’s worth

Dawood Ali is not the only one to have battled an incorrect housing fee.

Pedro, 62, a Portuguese man, was charged more than double what he should have paid last January and February.

“My complaint process is a long story but it was finally resolved two months ago,” Pedro said. “I was charged Dh250 instead of Dh100. I registered online in February after complaining.”

Sigrid Malong, from Manila, said she was yet to see what happened after her complain in June.

“I was charged three different amounts but I have been told my next statement will reflect the deduction,” said Ms Malong, 35. “I was supposed to pay Dh145 but was sometimes billed Dh229.”

Aijaz, 45, a Pakistani, said he was unaware of the housing fee and was told he was at fault for not registering.

“There was a lot of confusion but finally it was adjusted two months after I uploaded my details,” Aijaz said. “There needs to be more awareness on the housing fee. Why don’t they inform us when we submit the Dewa [Dubai Electricity and Water Authority] documents?”

Mr Abdullah, a Sudanese national, said the municipality was charging him 10 per cent for 18 months.

Mr Abdullah said he planned to visit to one of the new offices to resolve the issue after failed attempts at the civic body’s headquarters and Dewa.

* Maey El Shoush