x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

JBR residents lead charge against service fee rises

The lack of a registered owners' association is frustrating residents at a beachside development.

Jumeirah Beach Residence, where owners are withholding service fees in frustration over their lack of control.
Jumeirah Beach Residence, where owners are withholding service fees in frustration over their lack of control.

DUBAI // Residents of a plush beachside development are refusing to pay their service charges as they grow frustrated at being unable to form and register owners' associations.

People who bought property in Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) say a recent rise in fees has resulted in a 50-50 split between those paying and those refusing to.

Some owners say the charge written into their contracts was Dh9.5 a square foot, but Dubai Properties wanted to increase it to about Dh21, before settling on Dh15 a sq ft.

It was one of a series of issues, including a lack of facilities, that owners say have left them feeling ignored and helpless.

Hamid Hamri, from Belgium, bought his three-bedroom flat in Sadaf 6 tower in 2007.

"I regret buying the apartment but I don't want to sell," Mr Hamri said.

"The headaches owners have had to deal with regarding the developer have been ridiculous.

"The original contract said the service charge was Dh9.5 a square foot, but they increased it to Dh21 and eventually reduced it to Dh15. Technically, we should only be paying Dh9.5."

Last year there was also a problem with the development's car parks, which were left open to non-residents.

"Security wasn't enforcing that the car parks were only for residents so we couldn't find any spaces," Mr Hamri said. "As a suggestion we asked for card access but the developer used the cards to block people who hadn't paid service fees."

The problem has since been resolved but the underlying concern for most owners is the desire to have a registered owners' association that can audit costs for the towers and appoint new management companies.

Mohammed Al Saif, a retired Kuwaiti who bought his three-bedroom flat in Sadaf 1 off-plan for Dh690,000 in 2003, said he was disappointed by the poor finishing and lack of facilities.

"I bought it because before the boom the price was very attractive," Mr Al Saif said. "Unfortunately, the quality of materials used was of a lower standard, so in that respect it was a let-down."

The main concern, he said, was the need to have registered owners' associations as soon as possible.

"We've been told by Rera [Dubai's Real Estate Regulatory Authority] that they will recognise the association in the next two to three months and that will make a big difference," Mr Al Saif said.

"Once that happens we can audit the books and find out the cost of running the towers, and ask for the service charge to be set accordingly. We can then also appoint our own management company."

He said he did not regret buying his apartment but he was frustrated.

"Julia", a Russian, said her family was feeling the impact of having to meet a large monthly mortgage and an increase in the service charge.

The two-bedroom flat she shares with her husband and two children cost Dh2.5 million in 2008.

"We pay Dh22,000 a month in mortgage on top of the annual service charge," Julia said.

"The service charge was increased without the knowledge of the owners and when we asked to see the books to find out where the money is being spent we have been unable to.

"We were attracted here because we wanted to be close to the beach and the fresh air. That hasn't changed but I do think the developer broke its promises on things like not building the beach club."

Dubai Properties Group (DPG), which developed JBR, denied it had blocked access to any resident who has not paid outstanding fees through its appointed community-management company, Taziz.

"To enhance security around JBR a new access system was introduced over the summer," the company said.

"All residents and owners were informed ahead of time to obtain tower-access kits and parking-allocation stickers so that they could access their residences and the community facilities without any issues.

DPG and Taziz are, however, making all possible efforts within the law to collect the fees on behalf of the interim owners' associations.

"DPG is also currently working with Rera to establish the permanent home owners' association."