Dubai: Jumeirah Islands residents are crying foul over developer Nakheel’s high application and administration charges to those making structural changes in their villas.

Residents say Nakheel charges around Dh300 per square foot for every additional space built. All modifications have to be approved by the developer before commencing construction and those making changes to their villas without getting Nakheel’s permission are being fined around Dh10,000 in addition to paying for the additional space built.

My Villa, My right

Jumeirah Islands resident Mira J. had to shell out around Dh180,000 to add approximately 600 square feet of space to her four-bedroom villa which she bought in 2006. “We were not aware that we had to get permission from Nakheel for undertaking changes in our villa. We added a mezzanine floor and had some extensions done. It was only when I had to sell my house that I realised I would be penalised. The process with Nakheel is that when you sell your villa, they come and do a check if the villa is in right order. When they realised we had done the changes without their approval, we paid the fine and extra charge.”

Another resident Shabbir Kasim, 38, Pakistani, owner of a four-bedroom villa, said he put off plans to build a small room and a ceiling in his villa after hearing about the charges.

“I wanted to build a 100 square-foot room for my driver and a 300 square-foot ceiling slab. However, I was told by Nakheel I had to pay Dh120,000 for just that.”

In addition, Kasim said, an application fees of Dh2,500 to Dh5,000 was also payable to Nakheel. He said that all this was not the construction cost to the contractor, but just Nakheel’s approval and administration cost. “I don’t understand why I have to pay Nakheel to make any changes in my villa. After all, I own the villa and it is in my name!”

A Nakheel spokesperson said: “The planning approval process is an industry standard adopted by master developers and is designed to protect the interests of residents and the community by ensuring that all aspects of community development, safety and security are adhered to. Villa owners are urged to contact Nakheel if they want to make changes to their property.

“Only by doing this and following the established procedures can they ensure that proposed modifications are legal, with approved contractors in place to carry out the work. Applications for villa modifications are assessed on a case-by-case basis. Various costs apply.”

(Names have been changed to protect identities)