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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Fighting erupts between labourers and security officers as families blocked from homes in Dubai villa district

Dispute between developer and on-site contractors sees police called out

The villas at the Living Legends residential area in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
The villas at the Living Legends residential area in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Homeowners are often presented with flowers or a bowl of fruit when handed the keys to their new dream home.

That’s not been the case with new buyers at the Living Legends development who have faced gangs of labourers blocking their entry or had the locks changed to their new homes without warning.

Trouble broke out over the weekend as labourers hired by contractors Delta Emirates were embroiled with scuffles between on-site security and residents who were hoping to move in to their new villas.

One security guard who was protecting residents claims to have been struck with a metal bar and needed hospital treatment.

Developers Tanmiyat Global are at loggerheads with contractors Delta Emirates over an unresolved financial dispute. Commercial arbitration is ongoing.

That row has seen truckloads of workers surround properties that have already been bought, to stop their new owners from entering. Police were called, but told residents they were powerless to act as it was a civil dispute.

TT, an engineer who bought his villa for Dh3.2 million has been trying to move in since July 13.

“I have every right to be in my property, and ask any unauthorised people there to leave,” said the father of two.

“Instead, my house has been vandalised and they have cut off the power. It is intimidating to be confronted by these gangs of men. We have had little protection.”

TT, who has paid out more than Dh100,000 in deposit and moving fees, but remains locked out of his home said Delta Emirates demanded he sign a contract absolving them of responsibility of any future ‘snagging’ issues, or routine maintenance.

“My transaction was with Tanmiyat, not Delta Emirates, so I refused to sign this document and then they changed the locks and said there was no way I could move in. It was bullying tactics,” he added.

“I was homeless as I had planned to move in with my wife and two children. Our rented flat in Jumeirah Lakes Towers was all packed up, and we had paid a removal company to come and take our stuff.

“Then I found out we couldn’t move in. I had paid everything up front and completed all of the paperwork. I don’t want to move in and risk putting my family in danger until it is resolved.”

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TT is paying Dh20,000 a month in mortgage payments and more costs for rent, and has had to change the locks twice since taking ownership last month, but still can’t get in.

The contract for construction work on the Living Legends development has since passed over to Beijing Emirates, taking over from Delta Emirates, in June 2017.

Saleh Tabakh, CEO of Delta Real Estate, the commercial arm of the Tanmiyat Group that has been selling the properties, said they have suspended sales until the issues are resolved.

“We can offer ten security guards, but they are no match for 500 labourers,” he said.

“On Tuesday, two foreman beat up a security guard because he tried to stop the locks being changed.

DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , AUG 14 – 2017 :- View of the villas at the Living Legends residential area in Dubai. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) Story by Nick Webster
The villas at the Living Legends residential area in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

“Our client has paid all of the fees, and signed all of the necessary contracts. There are no defaults and he has gone to Dewa [Dubai's energy provider] to set up the supply in his name, so he should have been able to move in.

“We have no idea why they are doing this. It is not the first case, there have been many others.

“Yes, there is a dispute, but that shouldn’t stop these people from moving in to their villas.”

Delta Emirates said there is no contract or a direct relation between them and the villa buyers and denied preventing legitimate access to homes.

Muhammad bin Odah, chairman and chief executive officer, reassured homeowners the issues are being sorted out, and cut short his vacation after being called by police about the disturbances.

“Any client who has signed the paperwork and wants to move in can do so,” he told The National.

“We’ve come to an agreement in which we will reduce the security people on site who have been causing these problems.”

So far, 500 properties have been signed off with Dubai Municipality completion certificates.

“From Tuesday morning, all labourers and security staff will be reduced to just what is needed, instead of hundreds there will be just a few,” he added.

“When the police called me about the violence, I cut my vacation short and came back to resolve these problems.

“We have reached an agreement now which should stop any problems happening again in future. There will be much less people on site, and no more shouting or fighting.”