Joan A., 61, a pensioner from South Africa, said she paid a total of Dh95,840 to Avanti Holding between December 2007 and May 2008 for a unit at The Palisades, a Pearl Properties project in Dubai. Her payments represent 20 per cent of the unit price.

But for the last few weeks, the agents have ignored her phone calls and e-mail queries regarding the delay in construction.

"With the extent of the delay on the project [at least two years], investors should at least be offered their invested funds back," she said. On May 13, 2009, Joan lodged a complaint with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera).

"I have received no indication of when construction will start. All calls to the Avanti offices, and e-mails to their staff, including their chairman, have gone unanswered," she said.

A Pearl Properties spokesperson told XPRESS that "procedural" snags have delayed construction. "The properties will be handed over within two to three years," the spokesperson said.

Maya Isaac, a Client Servicing Officer of Avanti, said: "Our company is assuring all the buyers who bought through us that their and our rights are protected by The Palisades' developer and the government's regulatory bodies. Many of the buyers in The Palisades have already chosen to upgrade to alternative projects which are developed by us."

Joan said: "The delay has caused some degree of discomfort due to my being a pensioner, I am not willing to move to other projects. I really would like my money back."