x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Empty promises and broken dreams for Ajman home-buyers

Investors wait on dream houses, but Ajman property regulator says Al Andaleeb Investment Group has no licence to build.

AJMAN // Apart from a dilapidated corrugated-iron fence and a large sign depicting a glistening skyscraper, there is little to differentiate this patch of rubble-strewn desert near Emirates Road from any other. However, according to the contract Moazzem Hossain, 55, was holding, this patch should no longer be quite so barren. Instead, he and his wife should be settling into their new apartment in Chocolate Tower. Due to be completed last December, it was where they intended to spend their retirement.

But Al Andaleeb Investment Group, the company in charge of the development which was to total three skyscrapers Chocolate, Music and Money towers has not even broken ground on the site. Even with an 18-month grace period in the contract, there is no way that the property will be completed because the Ajman property regulator, Arra, has confirmed that the company has no licence to build. "It is devastating," said Mr Hossain, a former calculator in the surveying department at Dubai Municipality.

"I put my life savings into that property, all of my end-of-service payment from 27 years at the municipality. How can I live the rest of my life without that money?" Mr Hossain, from Bangladesh, put his deposit and first payment on the one-bedroom flat with study room in January 2008 and made eight payments over the next year, a total of Dh217,000 (US$59,000). He was attracted to the Ajman development because it offered freehold buyers a resident's visa.

His only option now is to continue to work and hope that Al Andaleeb will refund his money. He is not alone. More than 50 investors have formed a group that meets once a month to discuss their options. Nissa Rahim, 36, spotted the Al Andaleeb advertisements online and saw an opportunity to invest. She hoped to sell the property or rent it to earn some extra money to send her 15-year-old daughter to university.

Ms Rahim put down Dh73,000 in July 2008 as a first payment on a one-bedroom property in what was to be Music Tower. Three months later, she paid her next instalment of Dh37,000. When the third payment was due but no construction had begun, Ms Rahim was worried. "Eventually, I called Arra and they told me [Al Andaleeb] didn't have a licence," she said. Last month, Ms Rahim and the rest of the group received an e-mail from Al Andaleeb offering them 20 per cent of their money back. They decided instead to try to take legal action.

But suing brings another set of difficulties. Ms Rahim said the legal fees were four per cent of the property value and buyers are worried about "throwing good money after bad". Despite repeated approaches by The National, Al Andaleeb refused to comment. aseaman@thenational.ae