x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Dozens of families ‘without air-conditioning for two weeks’

Residents in a five-storey Abu Dhabi building say they have been without central air conditioning since May 21, as the building owner has refused to repair it.

Saziha Abdul Shukoor with her husband Abdul Shukoor, second right, son Mohamed, daughter Fatima and neighbour Mathew K in their Airport Road flat where the air conditioning has not worked for two weeks. Ravindranath K / The National
Saziha Abdul Shukoor with her husband Abdul Shukoor, second right, son Mohamed, daughter Fatima and neighbour Mathew K in their Airport Road flat where the air conditioning has not worked for two weeks. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // Dozens of families in an apartment building say they have been without air-conditioning for two weeks because the landlord is refusing to carry out repairs.

Some have been forced to spend thousands of dirhams on temporary air-conditioning units to cope with the soaring temperatures, and say their children’s health is suffering from heat-related problems.

At least 18 families, mostly from the Indian state of Kerala, live in the 21-unit, five-storey residential building on Airport Road, paying about Dh65,000 a year in rent.

Pious Mathew, a business owner, lives in one of the flats with his wife and their children, aged 6, 13 and 16.

Mr Mathew said he installed an air conditioner in one bedroom, where all five were sleeping, after the central system broke on May 21.

A mother, who did not wish to be identified, said her family had spent about Dh4,000 on air-conditioning units and her three children had to study for their exams in one bedroom to escape the heat.

Another two families said their children experienced health problems in temperatures they said had been as high as 45°C.

Rose Binoy, 30, said she took her nine-month-old daughter Miya Ann to hospital after she developed a fever and sore throat, which the mother suspected was caused by the Dh800 portable air conditioner the family bought.

“She was crying the whole night because of the throat pain,” said Ms Binoy.

Petsy Ann Philip said the heat aggravated skin rashes for her daughter Anna, 6, and son Manav, 9, who have eczema.

“In this condition the eczema worsens because they sweat,” said Ms Philip, 37, a mother of three.

When the itching gets worse and they scratch, “it bruises their skin”.

Shop managers on the ground floor say business has suffered.

Fatima Al Kendi owns Al Khafaya abaya shop and is having difficulty filling Ramadan orders because of the heat.

“What can we do now?” asked Ms Al Kendi, 44, from the UAE, who has run the shop for 10 years. “We are really thinking of getting out of this place.”

She said similar incidents had happened in the past, including the electricity being shut off.

Fareeha Sakaria, 50, from Pakistan, said she had been unable to book tailoring jobs at the shop she manages, Josh Couture.

She said she had spent Dh200,000 renovating the shop.

“Customers who come for the tailoring, obviously they have to be measured,” said Ms Sakaria.

“The changing room is unbearable. You have a right to be comfortable in what you paid for.”

Residents and business owners say they have repeatedly asked the building owner to replace the system but so far he has refused.

The owner did not wish to comment on the issue when contacted on Monday.

The residents have also taken up the matter with authorities but have received different answers from different bodies.

Mohammed Al Jaberi, head of the maintenance licensing section at Abu Dhabi Municipality, said the residents should submit an official letter to the Building Maintenance Permits section.

Mr Al Jaberi said the municipality had recently established this section to ensure maintenance was carried out.

By law, owners must conduct maintenance of key elements of their buildings, said Mr Al Jaberi.

Tenants can submit an official complaint if landlords have not carried out maintenance as per the lease. After a written warning, the owner can be fined and referred to court, he said.

But the residents also say they were told to submit their case to the Judicial Department Rental Affairs Committee.

Abdul Shukkur, 46, who works in administration and lives in the building, said the committee rejected his first case because he needed more documents, including an Arabic translation.

He said officials would not tell him why the second case was rejected and gave no extra information.

“We’ve spent a lot of money on this,” said Mr Shukkur. “I’ve been in Abu Dhabi 18 years. I’ve never come across this type of thing.”

lcarroll@thenational.ae