Ralph Rau, a financial controller by trade, has plenty of good things to say about life in Uptown MotorCity, a place that he considers an excellent and tranquil locale, one that is particularly safe for young families. Ralph loves MotorCity's convenient highway access; and its burgeoning roster of shops, restaurants, pharmacies, coffee shops and salons mean that, aside from work, he doesn't have to leave the development for his basic needs.
But despite such conveniences, he is not entirely happy, particularly when using Uptown Mirdif as the benchmark: "It was implicit that Uptown MotorCity would offer the same material and workmanship as Uptown Mirdif. That's what the Uptown branding implied." But upon taking possession of the property, Ralph found a number of objectionable areas: "The walls are made of gypsum-based drywall, and even a cursory inspection of the building exteriors, false ceilings and doors shows the difference in build standards between MotorCity and Mirdif."
Part of the problem, admits Ralph, is that material specifications that should have been detailed at sale weren't well documented: "Unlike [some developers] which provided build specifications on the quality of walls, flooring, ceiling heights, ceramic tiles, and so on; Union Properties sold their apartments with a scant two-page booking form."
Another problem area for Ralph is the disparity between the actual Dh11.50 per ft² maintenance fee rate, and the suggested Dh7 per ft² rate that Ralph says was touted by the sales staff upon purchase. While Ralph has additional concerns about high district cooling fees and an unexpected RTA fee, not every surprise has been of the unpleasant variety. "All owners at Uptown MotorCity received two free covered car parks and two free basement storerooms," says Ralph. "No other development provided that for two-bedroom apartment buyers." Ralph says that living in Uptown MotorCity, a calming place with all the amenities, is a delight, but from a business standpoint he's not completely satisfied.
In response to our request for comment, Chaddy Kassis, marketing manager for Union Properties (UP), politely declined to comment, stating that "[UP] is going through a sensitive period now with the handover of two of our major developments approaching, so we prefer to leave the floor to the owners without any input from our end."
With over 30 years of experience in the construction and property sector, and a PhD in construction management, Dr Paul D Rogers is an expert in building defects, and also happens to be a property owner at Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR), where his discerning eye has catalogued a number of issues.
"The pipes have never been tested," explains Dr Rogers, "there are leaks from Plaza level into the car park areas below, as well as serious heave (upward displacement) of the tiled and concrete paving area on the Plaza level, due to inefficient expansion joints [which are] not installed correctly. The overall problem with the heave is that the paving has not been laid on the correct base, if you can imagine the total area of the Plaza levels throughout JBR, then you can see the size of this problem."
Dubai Properties Group (DPG) responded to our request for comment, stating: "We are concerned to hear about the comments forwarded by a JBR resident. The JBR area is an important community that we are committed to managing and developing." On the subject of the pipes and paving they disagreed with Dr Rogers. "The water pipes and the concrete paving area at Jumeirah Beach Residence have been installed according to the highest standards of quality and are periodically tested by the contractors."
According to Dr Rogers, there are also ventilations issues: "The extractor system from the food outlets on The Walk discharge into the ground floor car park area, most nights you can smell food throughout the car parks on all levels. The ground floor is like a smoke tunnel, which suggests that the smoke alarms are not activated… to rectify this problem [with an extractor retrofit] the cost would be around Dh2.5 million."
Dr Rogers isn't alone in his concerns over ventilation, another JBR resident I spoke to said that he parked his car near a vent for a week and when he came back his car was covered with grease. Smoke is a known carcinogen, and can also be a source of property damage.
DPG defended the design, but conceded that a retrofit is in the works: "With regards to the ventilation, JBR has a Dubai Municipality approved ecological ventilation system in place. However, in addition, new plans are also being worked on to upgrade the exhaust system to prevent any ventilation concerns in the parking bays. We aim to finalise this matter within the next few months."
In a sense, Dr Roger's and DPG, like Rau and UP; are business partners engaged in a scheme of fractional-ownership, and will remain so for as long as the developer is involved in the property. Because Rogers and Rau constitute residents, a class of stakeholder more intimately invested in a property, it is almost inevitable that there will be some degree of friction, especially as developers (though not necessarily DPG or UP) face cash flow challenges. Hopefully, as strata laws come online, and the Dubai market matures, there will be a swift and impartial mechanism for the resolution of such matters. Not just for the benefit of current investors and developers, but to promote investor confidence among future residents and investors, on whose prospect so much of the market's outlook hangs.