In protest: Shama Qureshi refused to pay two years rent to the owner of her building because of the lack of maintenance facilities and safety measures

DUBAI: A family living in a flat in a dilapidated building in Karama for 32 years has refused to pay rent for the past two years over maintenance issues.

Shama Qureshi, 50, said they were the last family staying in the severely run-down building now occupied by bachelors. “Since the mid-90s, I’ve been paying myself to maintain the flat.

“Despite sending several intimations to the landlord, he repeatedly ignored my requests. I had to maintain the unit from my salary,” Qureshi said, claiming she also suffered from an electric shock this year due to poor wiring.

The family has been living in Unit 3 of Building No 11, a low-rise residential unit, since 1980. The building located close to the Karama Metro station was built in 1975 and privatised in 1995.

The family said they didn’t mind leaving the run-down flat, but refused to pay the higher rent demanded by the landlord in the past two years. They also wanted to be compensated for the maintenance expenses that they incurred.

“I don’t mind moving out. But I demand that the outstanding rent be waived as compensation for my expenses in maintaining the house. I also want a new home.”

Qureshi worked as a document controller at Arenco until 2011, the year she lost her job. Her two children, daughter Urooj, 30, and son Adeel Humayun, 29, both born and raised in Dubai, are working.

Qureshi’s husband was an electrician who died in 1997.

XPRESS saw broken stairs, with iron bars sticking out at odd angles leading up to the unit. “There are no lights in the corridor or the stairs at night. Imagine walking up and down the stairs and tripping because of these bars,” she said.

Electric wires were exposed near the building entrance, with switch-boxes within children’s reach. A fire broke out that gutted the building’s electric control box, Qureshi said. Though she requested the wiring be fixed, she was told that the building was too old and the electrical system faulty due to years of negligence.

Qureshi, who once got an electric shock while washing dishes, showed XPRESS a copy of her medical report. “The [electric] current gave me a big jolt as I was doing the dishes. The landlord never made good on his promise to fix things here.” The rent, meanwhile, was increased from Dh26,900 in 2010 to Dh31,900 in 2011 to Dh37,900 in 2012, she said.

“When I went to the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Rera), I was told that the problem was between me and the landlord. I went to the Dubai Municipality and I was told the same.

“In a dispute like this, who is supposed to intervene?”

The landlord’s lawyer, Pierre Mehawej, has admitted that the building is in a bad state, but added that the family had in fact abused the landlord’s benevolence. “Back in 2007 they came to me with what seemed to be a humanitarian crisis, so I helped them,” the lawyer said. He added that the landlord agreed that the family should only pay half the rent, and that he will not collect the other half until maintenance issues were resolved.

“The landlord sent a team of workers to fix her house twice. But she refused to let them in, saying there was no one in the house except herself and her daughter,” Mehawej said. “I sent her several notifications, but she did not receive them intentionally. What if it was a note telling her of our intent to demolish the house?” said Mehawej.

“They only respond to us if we send them threatening notifications,” the lawyer said.

He added that the Dh15,000 rent cheque that Qureshi gave in 2010, equal to half the rent for 2009-2010, remains locked away as the landlord could not honour the agreement as his maintenance team was not able to visit the flat. “We’ve faced so much trouble with them. If they do not like the house, they can hand it over,” Mehawej said.