Dubai: Nakheel has renewed its claim to exclusive ownership of the beach at Palm Jumeirah.
Residents of Shoreline Apartments here have been in a dispute with the developer since December 2011 when they were asked to keep off the beach until they paid their service fees.
Aasked if Nakheel was looking to take control of common areas such as the beach, beach club and lobbies, Nakheel Chairman Ali Rashid Ahmad Lootah, said: “The beach belongs to Nakheel, it’s our beach. We will go as per the contract we sign. I don’t want to elaborate more. Whatever is there in the contract, we will respect it. It is not what people think they are entitled to.”
Lootah said owners must pay the service charges. “There’s no excuse for not paying. All our fees are approved by the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Rera) and audited by auditors,” he said in an interview to XPRESS.
Owners and residents of Shoreline Apartments on the posh manmade island have locked horns with Nakheel over beach access for months.
In January, things came to such a pass that angry residents called the police to intervene.
The issue of service fees has also dogged residents of Marina Residences, also built by Nakheel on The Palm. The building’s swimming pools were drained in June and remained empty for weeks.
“We have issued clear statements on this. People are not paying service charges. How can we arrange the necessary facilities? If nobody is attending the swimming pools, do I leave it unattended? What is the safest way to deal with it?” he asked.
“All our service charges are regulated by auditors. Having said that, people have become more co-operative now and have started to pay their dues. I would like to add that Nakheel’s service fees are among the cheapest in town and there are certain people who recognise this. But, there are others who do not want to pay as they do not reside in the UAE. I ask people to encourage their neighbours to pay their service fees,” said Lootah.
“I would like to assure people that we are bringing costs down on all our developments — whether it is service fees or owners’ association-related. We are publicly tendering all our contracts to get competitive bids. We mean well, we mean good.”
He added: “Even when people do not pay service fees, we maintain their buildings. Who collects their garbage? Who provides their security? How can they stay in the building if there are no services? We do not inflate service charges.”
He said services are proportional to the fees. “The services commensurate with the amount collected as fees. There are always priorities in each development — as to what service is more important.”
He said Nakheel properties enjoyed 90 per cent occupancy levels. “If people were not happy with us or if our properties were unattractive, then why would we still have such a high occupancy? If our investors are able to lease their properties, I don’t see an issue.”
Lootah has cautioned prospective tenants to do their homework on the property they want to rent. “Landlords have to give the full picture to the tenants before leasing out their units. Tenants must also do their bit to check on the property they are planning to move into.”
“I think Nakheel is very transparent. We are addressing all enquiries that we receive. If people have a problem, our doors are open and they can come and talk to us about it. There are policies within Nakheel and processes set within our system. We will do our best to solve their issues.”
He said the increase in power costs has resulted in increased district cooling rates in Nakheel developments. “District cooling has nothing to do with us. We don’t own the district cooling companies and we have no control over them. People now have all the facts and figures with them [on the charges], they should do their calculations before moving into a property.”
Regarding the Jointly Owned Property Declaration (JOPD), the Nakheel Chairman said the process was ongoing and no timeline had been set to finalise it.
A Chairman of the Interim Owners Association in the Shoreline Apartments said: “We are waiting for it to be signed.”
Explaining what a JOPD is, Shahram Safai, Partner, Afridi & Angell said: “A jointly owned property declaration is a document that is produced for each project. It describes the common areas in a project such as the pool, gymnasium, car parks etc.
“The JOPD is a very important document because it tells potential purchasers and existing owners what the common areas are and how service charges are calculated.
“It is the responsibility of the developer to prepare the JOPD and sign it in order to be submitted to Rera. Purchasers of units can change the JOPD after it has been filed and the building has been completed.”
Lootah reckons the property market is reviving. “We are back to 2007 prices. Prices are looking up, especially in high-end properties and villas. My job is demanding. But I am satisfied with the progress we’ve made. I see the results coming in. Nakheel is back on track and is here to stay.”