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What happens to service charges if property stays vacant? Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: If a mortgaged property is not occupied by the owner or a tenant, is the property owner still liable to pay the service charges to the property developer? And what happens in case the property owner dies and service charges have accrued over the period taken to legally transfer the property to his or her heir? This was the query raised by a Gulf News reader.

“I have a query regarding the outstanding service charges due, after the demise of my father. He had an apartment, which was on mortgage. He passed away at the end of 2019 and I had immediately informed the bank about this. All the service charges due till that date had been paid. After that, when I received a mail from the property manager for the payment of service charges, I informed them as well about my father’s demise. It took almost a year for the bank to clear the mortgage and hand us the letter to release the mortgage. I also completed all the required court documentation and when I went to the land department, I was informed that the property was blocked that I needed to call the property management company and try to reach a mutual settlement with them.

“I requested the company to help me with this issue, but according to them the amount was due from the land department and, therefore, non-negotiable. They told me that if I wanted to transfer the property to the heir’s name, I would need to immediately clear the outstanding amount, which is of more than Dh22,000.

“I would like to seek your help in this matter and advise me what to do, as it is difficult for me to clear this amount. I was not even able to let out the property for a year, and it is still vacant, as I am not the legal owner of the property. Am I liable to pay this amount? Can I seek an option to get it waived?”

Gulf News raised the query with Ahmed Elnaggar, Managing Partner at Elnaggar & Partners, who said that service charges are a mandatory payment, which developers need to the general upkeep of the facility.

“Unfortunately, there is no room to negotiate or a possibility to waive such an amount. Service charges are the payment that needs to be made by all homeowners to the community management of the building to be able to cover the running expenses of the common areas, the safety and security of the building and much more. It is a mandatory payment,” Elnaggar said.

Ahmed Elnaggar, Managing Partner at Elnaggar & Partners

Ahmed Elnaggar, Managing Partner at Elnaggar & Partners

Elnaggar also advised readers to weigh their options and consider any potential losses they could face due to non-payment or lengthy legal procedures, before

“The amount mentioned by the questioner is small compared to the potential loss the legal heirs would have to face as a consequence of non-payment. The building management through Dubai Land Department and Dubai Courts would have the right to auction the property at the most relevant price to sell and collect the debt on the landlord or, in this case, the legal heirs. I would advise the questioner to arrange the payment and to immediately take control of the property to rent it out and recover the funds paid for the service charges.”