Online community groups used by UAE residents to share relevant, local information
ABU DHABI // Thousands of homeowners and tenants belong to online community groups that some believe offer the best chance of being heard by property management companies and landlords.
Neighbours use these Facebook groups to spread news about the community, seek advice, sell items and voice complaints, which can be a lifeline when there is lack of official communication.
Al Reef residents have formed several groups for the community’s various subdivisions, developed by Manazel Real Estate.
“It’s the only way that we can actually make sure that our messages reach Manazel and Census, which is the maintenance company,” said M S, 33, a Palestinian villa owner. “Otherwise no one will actually hear us.”
For Al Muneera residents, the Facebook page “is extremely important, especially for newcomers, to get a feel for how things work, or don’t work, for that matter”, said another resident, a 39-year-old Lebanese expatriate.
Management for the community, developed by Aldar, prefers tenants and owners to use an official portal rather than Facebook to voice complaints, he said. “The community management keeps complaining that we shouldn’t be airing our dirty laundry.” But, he said, residents felt that the response from that route was inadequate.
“I’m not aware of anyone having anything significant being answered.”
He said he has lived in Abu Dhabi most of his life but the rights that residents had about maintenance and other problems were “extremely unclear”.
“Although I believe there was something planned to be set up, I’m still unaware of any kind of properly functioning consumer advocacy group,” he said.
He had tried to contact a municipality department regarding issues in his home but said he was told to contact the community management.
“I’ve given up for anything I need done,” the expat said.
“I try to do it myself, regardless of the cost.”
Lack of communication is a major frustration for Al Reef residents, said Ruppert Baird, an American who decided to leave the community after having his rent increased by nearly Dh20,000.
For example, he said, residents wanted answers about a large recurring puddle at the main gate that was an annoyance, but had no luck until the issue was apparently resolved three months later, he said.
“Again, nobody knows why it was happening, nobody knows how it was resolved, nobody knows why it is was resolved and how come it took three months,” said Mr Baird, a 55-year-old aircraft mechanic.
The good communication with neighbours on Alghadeer’s Facebook group was a factor in Phillie Hall’s decision to move there, the 47-year-old Briton said.
Residents post about needing a lift or to borrow something, maintenance queries, social events and lost pets, she said.
“The Alghadeer Facebook page is what led me to move there, probably due to the shared adversity of people living out in the desert,” said Ms Hall. “Everybody really tries to muck in and help others.”
Ms Hall, who has lived in the UAE for 23 years, said the high-rise flat where she previously lived had little communication amid serious maintenance issues. Residents could use Facebook to warn each other about maintenance problems they had experienced – such as a hot water pipe that sent water spouting into Ms Hall’s kitchen.
“With serious maintenance issues, Facebook can be so helpful,” she said.
The community group phenomenon is also replicated in Dubai, where there are pages such as the Meadows, Lakes, Springs Community and Arabian Ranches Mums, that similarly allows residents to share information about what is going on in the community.
Neither Aldar nor Manazel Real Estate responded to a request for comment for this article.
Updated: February 6, 2015 04:00 AM