DUBAI: The Dubai Land Department has urged investors "not to neglect the legal mechanisms that guarantees and safeguards real estate rights from fraud and misconduct".
The warning comes after a January 12 XPRESS report on the plight of a Dubai resident who returned from a business trip to find that his Dh690,000 apartment had been sold to someone else.
Indian businessman Mohammad Waliullah Sameer, 30, bought the one-bedroom apartment in International City's England Cluster from Kyrgyz national Emil Ryskulov in May 2008. He got it furnished and moved in with his wife and children in April 2009, but did not register the property. Following a "comprehensive investigation" into the case, the Land Department has blamed the victim himself.
"Mohammad [Sameer] committed a mistake by not registering the property with the Land Department but kept the documents and title deed with himself. As a result, the property remained registered under the name of the first owner [Emil Ryskulov]…. The first owner took advantage of this mistake and issued a replacement of the title deed," the Land Department said in a statement to XPRESS.
It said a notice about the new title deed was published in local Arabic and English newspapers.
"We allowed a 30-day grace period for anyone who has any objection to the replacement of the title deed. The Land Department didn't receive any objection... The Land Department has issued dozens of press releases in Arabic and English urging buyers to follow Law No 7 of 2006 concerning property registration, which stressed in Article No 9 on the necessity of documenting all property transactions — either selling or purchase — at the department's real estate register to ensure the rights of all concerned parties. No changes on the property will be reliable unless the transaction is documented in the register. The Land Department is calling on all investors at Dubai real estate market not to neglect the legal mechanisms guaranteeing and safeguarding the real estate rights from any fraud and misconduct," the statement read.
Sameer said the Land Department's stance had left him "shocked and devastated".
"I was hoping to get justice but now my faith in Dubai's real estate sector has been shaken to the core. I could not get the property registered simply because the Land Department had put all registrations on hold for six months over a dispute with Nakheel. Along with Tabassum Arif of Port Real Estate [the Bur Dubai-based real estate firm which facilitated the purchase], and Siyanat Aronova, who represented Ryskulov as his power of attorney, we went to the land department several times, but each time we were turned away, and now they are blaming me for the whole thing.
"I went to Nakheel's office in International City, but they couldn't help me either. Meanwhile, the Port Real Estate office shut down and its owners are absconding. Again, I went to the Land Department but nobody gave me a proper response. All that they did was shuffle me from one cabin to another. At one point I was told that the title deed I had was perfect but in order to transfer the property in my name I had to first find the original owner, Emil Ryskulov. I exhausted all resources looking for Ryskulov, but he remained untraceable. Fearing mischief, I went to the Land Department in April 2011 yet again and asked them to safeguard my property from any fraudulent transfer, but they refused to take down my request saying they have no such provision."
Sameer's worst fears came true when he visited his apartment recently and found that its lock had been changed. He rushed to the Land Department where he was told that the apartment has been sold to Pakistani Gulam Mustafa Memon through the power of attorney of Ryskulov.
"The Land Department claims to have issued a notification in local newspapers. How would a person staying out of Dubai come to know about them? I have lost my hard-earned money in a well-planned scam. But instead of taking action against the scamsters, the Land Department is putting the blame on me. If authorities continue to take these issues for granted, people will think twice before investing in Dubai's real estate. I urge them to re-investigate the case afresh."