x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Villa torment for tenants in Abu Dhabi complex

Tenants have had their electricity cut-off, had no working air conditioning and had problems with hot water.

ABU DHABI // Families in a villa complex in the city have had to deal with having their electricity cut off, no air conditioning and no hot water in a dispute with a property manager.

There is growing anger among the 25 tenant families who have had to deal with a string of problems as a result of the property manager not paying bills, they say.

The complex of subdivided villas in Al Nahyan Camp opened last October and, since moving in, tenants have had their electricity cutoff, had no working air conditioning and problems with hot water, according to one disgruntled Canadian tenant, Bonnie Kearns.

Residents have not only had to deal with postponed moving-in dates, incomplete fixtures, fittings and swimming pool but have now also learnt that the partitioning of the villas had not even been approved by the municipality, and therefore is illegal.

A giant, noisy generator sits at the front of the villas to provide electricity.Ms Kearns believes that she and her fellow tenants have been duped - especially as they have each received a letter stating that the property manager is now being sued by the site's owner, Osama Al Mahmoud, for failure to pay rent, despite the manager pocketing deposits and up-front annual rents from each of the 25 families.

Ms Kearns, who works in operations and procurement at Emirates Steel, viewed the property in September last year when the site was still a work-in-progress.

She paid more than Dh5,000 on a deposit and also an annual rent of Dh120,000 for a two-bedroom apartment in one of the villas. This figure, she was told, would cover rent, swimming pool maintenance, a parking space and bills.

The 35-year-old signed a contract to move in by October 15, however, she was told for two months that the flat was not ready.

"It was always 'tomorrow, tomorrow'," she said. "Finally, on December 15, I was forced to move my belongings in."

However, the apartment was without any doors, light fixtures and had missing tiling panels and leaking taps in the bathroom.

Ms Kearns had to pay Dh37,000 out of her own pocket for a private company to finish the job, she said.

Frustrated, she, too, has now filed a criminal and civil case against him. She has a thick wad of documentation to back up her case.

"I've had enough," Ms Kearns said. "I am fighting back and taking the bull by its horns."

She is seeking 60 per cent of her rent back and Dh50,000 in compensation for the money she has had to pay to make her apartment liveable.

Each resident has been promised by the site's owner, Mr Al Mahmoud, that if he, as he hopes at the end of the court case, takes back control of the villas, that he will honour their contracts.

He told The National that he filed civil and criminal claims against the property manager in December. He said he is owed Dh295,000 in rent from the manager for the first half of the year as cheques given so far have bounced. Another Dh320,000 rent cheque is due next month, said Mr Al Mahmoud.

The property manager has been given a grace period by the courts of until mid-April to pay his debts, Mr Al Mahmoud added.

For Ms Kearns and the other residents, it is now a matter of waiting and hoping.

"For me, I am living on my own. It is frustrating but I can manage," she said. "But there are families living here with babies and children. The electricity is onandoff and there is no air-conditioning. It is them I feel sorry for."

The property manager did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

jbell@thenational.ae