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There is a legal fight brewing over unpaid property service charges in Dubai. It cannot be allowed to get Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

There is no denying the fact that life has taken an absolute turn post-pandemic. The COVID-19 has affected the basics - It taught us how to lead a disciplined life, which meant a drop in the extravagant social life one is used to in this part of the world.

The pandemic has also led to a big drop in economic activity and the consequences will be far reaching and continue affecting us for years. The effect on office leasing is already visible.

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COVID-19 effect via the economic impact will be more serious and lasting than the impact on health. The serious drop in business even on a day-to-day basis can be easily seen. The wife tells me outlets in Bur Dubai do not open in normal course and some of them have put out notices with telephone numbers to call them as and when customers want to buy anything. Unbelievable as it may seem, it’s true.

The drop in salaries or its non-payment on time is another major aspect. The impact in this part of the world is more severe due to the high cost of living, and also the over reliance on plastic cards for day-to-day survival. Banks are not sympathetic to defaulters and thus the agony of many looks to be unending.

Show some sympathy

On the burning topic of unpaid property service fees - and the means used by the management companies to recover the same - I do feel that a more sympathetic approach would help. There is no denying the fact that these funds are required to run communities - but going the legal way is a bit too harsh. More so, as not in all cases are fees not paid without reasons.

I have myself been under one such situation when nonpayment is purely because the amount is being disputed. And despite repeated reminders, the management company has failed to reconcile this.

Going legal is time consuming and should be the last resort. I sincerely hope that management companies are more understanding and this will surely lead to better governance. Last year’s revised notification on not imposing penalties on late payments is also not going to help - unless it is amended once again. Should the amendment be done, I hope it will have retrospective application for I have witnessed some major write-offs on this account and depleting the community’s receivables.

What I fail to understand is that why are reserves not used to run communities in these difficult times? What are we doing with non-recoveries from developers/owners?

I personally know of a case where the developer/owner has been the largest defaulter in the community and recovery proceedings are hardly moving. Such communities will suffer the most since they are only booking reserves and not actual reserves...

- Gautam Patel is a Dubai-based homeowner.