DUBAI: If losing their homes to a devastating fire three years ago was not bad enough, owners of the 160-apartment Tamweel Tower have to now contend with another harsh reality.
They are getting monthly cooling bills for a service that has remained non-existent since the building was rendered inhabitable and declared unsafe to live in by authorities in 2012.
The bills now run into tens of thousands of dirhams.
Over the years, owners have been asking service provider Palm Utilities to waive the charges, but their demands remain unheeded and they continue being slapped with minimum monthly consumption and capacity costs.
Owners speak out
“My utility bill dated January 7 shows an outstanding of Dh11,830.71. This is insane. Why should I pay such a huge amount when I have not lived in the apartment for the last three years?” asked Palestinian expat Mazen Iskandarani, owner of a two-bedroom apartment on the 11th floor of the fire-ravaged tower.
“Every month I am billed Dh30 for consumption and Dh281 towards capacity charges. What consumption are we talking about here when I have not used their service in the first place? Dewa [Dubai Electricity and Water Authority] stopped sending us bills after the fire. So why is Palm Utilities? After all, both are service providers,” he reasoned.
British expatriate John Cox, 61, owner of a two-bedroom 1,692 sqft apartment on the 19th floor termed the charges as daylight robbery.
“It is theft and very disgraceful. I approached Palm Utilities requesting a waiver, but they said I have signed a contract and have to abide by it. How on earth could we (owners) have fathomed a fire of such magnitude would gut the building and displace owners? In fact the utility provider should have included a fire clause in the contract protecting users. Why should we suffer because of their oversight?”
The Tamweel Owners Board said they have run into a dead end with Palm District Cooling (PDC), the service provider for Palm Utilities.
"The response from them is always the same. They say they cannot do anything as their future income is hypothecated to banks and it’s they [banks] who have refused to waive the charges,” said a board member.
Needless to say PDC’s explanation doesn’t cut ice with the owners.
“What has PDC’s relationship with the bank got to do with us?” said one of them. “I am not giving up and will fight tooth and nail to take this up with the highest authorities,” said Murad Najjar, owner of a 2,044 sqft two-bedroom apartment on the 26th floor.
Mortgage payments on hold
Syrian expat Ahmad, 47, owner of a three-bedroom apartment on the 27th floor said he is considering selling his flat.
“In wake of the fire, my monthly mortgage instalments were put on hold by the bank. They will resume once the building is restored and handed over to owners. And then there is this issue of pending cooling bills. I have an outstanding of Dh14,013. They won’t restore my chiller services until it’s cleared.”
Repair work on Tamweel Tower has begun and the building is expected to be handed over to owners this year.
In an email to XPRESS, Tamweel owners’ board said: “The board members are owners themselves and we suffer the same charges as others. We think it is unfair and have said so all along. We hope that in years to come there will be mechanisms in place to alleviate such unethical charges. But as of now, we don’t expect this to happen - unless someone higher up shows their kindness on us.”
A response from Palm Utilities was not available despite reminders.
When XPRESS highlighted the plight of owners in an earlier report, they had said: “Capacity charges have been determined to recover the investment on behalf of unit owners or developers over a period of time.
"All property owners as per their end-user agreements are required to pay an annual capacity charge irrespective of occupancy. Unfortunately, we cannot reverse these to the owners.
"The cost of investment in district cooling infrastructure is something that PDC has already paid for. For our part, we have sent a circular to all owners asking them to defer their chiller fees payment until they move back into their apartments.”
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