x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Water and power pledge for hundreds of victims of Dubai rent scam

Victims of the Shamyana subletting scam have been promised by Dewa that their utilities will not be cut off. Meanwhile the global hunt for their bogus landlord continues.

Victims of the Shamyana subletting scam sign a letter addressed to the Ruler of Dubai.
Victims of the Shamyana subletting scam sign a letter addressed to the Ruler of Dubai.

DUBAI // Hundreds of tenants who are victims of the Shamyana subletting scam were promised yesterday their power and water will not be cut off.

"We don't want to make this into a bigger problem," said Abdullah Al Hajri, head of customer service at Dubai's utility authority. "So we will not allow any disconnection or any new connection in any home registered under the name of Shamyana."

The bogus landlord Haitham Al Kouatly fled the country in August with at least Dh6 million in rent paid to him by tenants but not passed on to property owners, and Interpol has issued a Red Notice for his arrest and extradition.

Al Kouatly, chief executive of Shamyana Entertainment Services, rented apartments from property companies and landlords from 2009.

He then illegally sublet the apartments, told tenants he would pay utility bills as part of the rental agreement and registered the connections with Dewa, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, in his company name.

From June this year he convinced at least 130 tenants to sign up for early renewals. They agreed to pay their own Dewa bills when he offered a 13-month lease for the price of a year.

Police believe he fled to Beirut on August 30. Dozens of tenants then approached Dewa when landlords, duped out of their rental income, threatened to cut utility services.

Dewa has now decided to transfer all Shamyana cases to the Rent Committee, Dubai's property-dispute tribunal, for a final decision.

"It is a very vital service and we do not want to take wrongful action against people so we are working with other government offices to solve this," said Mr Al Hajri, the authority's executive vice president for customer service.

"As long as a bill is being paid we will not disconnect Dewa to make sure that no one is harmed in this case.

"We have received calls from the Rent Committee and we have agreed with them on the course of action we will take. We are doing this to protect the owner and the renter. We will transfer all such cases to the committee and we will wait until its decision. We will try to help as much as we can because it is only right for every person to get electricity and water."

Adel, a tenant who fell foul of the scam, said: "We are relieved to hear that Dewa will not be cut. It has been a major concern for us that landlords can cut Dewa and this is definitely a big relief that the authorities will not allow this."

More than 60 tenants signed a letter on Tuesday to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, asking him to intervene to prevent their eviction.

"We have faith that the Government of Dubai will not tolerate such behaviour and will bring justice to those affected," the letter reads. "We hereby request your intervention in the matter and call for an urgent appeal to action on humanitarian grounds on this issue that has left many of us without homes and indebted to banks."

The petition will be submitted to Sheikh Mohammed's office by the end of the week.

"Many landlords are asking tenants to leave and we hope the government will step in and rectify this whole mess so everybody can be satisfied," said Kenneth Hubbard, a tenant in the Links, who renewed his contract in July for Dh63,000.

Zoe Charles, who renewed her lease last month, is trying to stay optimistic. "We want to raise awareness about what has happened and hope somehow we can be heard."

Dalia, a tenant who renewed her lease in April, said: "The guy didn't just take our money, he took our homes. We came to Dubai for stability and security and we've written to the government that we need help."

rtalwar@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by Preeti Kannan