190909 downtown dubai
Tourists in Downtown Dubai [File image] Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Dubai: Hundreds of homeowners in Dubai have been left in a limbo by two holiday home companies which allegedly handed them dud cheques after leasing out their properties and pocketing the entire year’s rent from tenants.

Landlords who signed contracts with The Don Holiday Homes Rental LLC and The Place Holidays Homes LLC, said they have not only lost thousands of dirhams in rent money, but also been denied access to their own homes.

As per their agreement, the holiday home firms were to sublease their homes and give the rental proceeds to landlords in four cheques.

As it turns out, both companies rented out their properties way below prevailing market rents against singe cheque payments. but didn’t pass on the money to actual homeowners.

For instance, a two bedroom apartment in Dubai Marina was given away for Dh59,000 while a one bedroom unit in Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT) went for just Dh43,000. Curiously, their owners were promised upwards of Dh70,000 in four payments. Like countless others, they are still waiting.

Homeowners recount anguish

“It’s obvious they never had any intention to pay us,” said Indian expat S.R. who leased out his Dubai Marina home to Place Holidays for Dh73,000 in August this year. “Their very first cheque has bounced and the fate of the remaining ones is a forgone conclusion,” said the financial professional.

Briton W. Chouehri, who signed a one-year contract with Place Holidays in October last year, said he’s regretting his decision. “Their last two cheques worth Dh26,000 have returned because of insufficient funds. Worse, I can’t take possession of my own house as the tenant has a separate tenancy contract with the holiday home which runs until April, way beyond the expiration of my contract with Place Holidays. This effectively means she will be living there for free while I still pay for maintenance and mortgage,” he said.

South African expat Ben Lourens who entered into an agreement with Don Holiday in June 2019 recounts a similar experience.

Document 1 - GN-1576911871381

“They contacted me after I posted an online advertisement offering my Palm Jumeirah home for rent,” Lourens recalled.

The company was to sublease the house for Dh190,000 but they put it up in the market for Dh135,000, making it an attractive proposition for tenants. One of them immediately grabbed the offer. He paid Don Holiday upfront and moved into the apartment but Lourens got a mere Dh30,000 from them.

“All remaining post-dated cheques have since bounced and there’s nothing much we could do about it as the law makes it incredibly hard and expensive to fight for our rights in order to get back what belongs to us. Don Holiday still owe me Dh160,000,” he said.

Tricky clause

French expat B.Kenaa, who is also left clutching dud cheques, recounts a similar experience.

“I approached Dubai Land Department (DLD) which is the competent body for such issues. Unfortunately, my case got rejected because of a clause in our contract which stipulates that any rental dispute between us must be heard only by the Dubai International Arbitration Centre (DIAC) at the Chamber of Commerce. The procedural costs at DIAC are very high. Now we are in a situation where we find ourselves deprived of our homes and rental incomes without any recourse ” added Kenna.

Many homeowners said the contract between them and Don Holidays is invalid as the company has failed to pay them within 30 days as per the terms of the agreement. “There’s a special clause saying that the contract will be terminated if we are not paid within 30 days,” said one of them.

Another victim, Anam Khan from India, said she’s at her wit’s end. “It’s been almost an year since they leased my studio apartment in IMPZ. All I've got from them is a marginal amount. In my time fighting against the company, I’ve come across several other people who have gone through the same trouble. Many of the victims are in different stages of their legal battle but all have the same pains,” she said.

Issam Hubbi (Syria), Noel Anthony Miller (UK), Uras Gulbiter (Turkey) H.A. (Bahrain), Zarif Zaropav (Uzbekistan) are among many other Dubai-based homeowners caught in a similar situation with Don Holiday.

“Between just eight of us, they took Dh9,20,000,” said Kenaa.

NAT 191218 SCAM CONTRACT2-1576911873268

Noel Miller, who owns a two bedroom apartment in Dubai Marina, pegged his individual loss at Dh175,000. “We have approached various authorities but our issue remains unresolved,” he said.

Victims of Place Holiday said they also have nowhere to turn. A representative of a property management company which leased out four homes to Place Holiday said she’s been knocking on doors for justice.

DLD and DTCM response

Dubai Land Department told Gulf News they are not looking into issue, saying it comes under the purview of Dubai Tourism Commerce and Marketing (DTCM) as the holiday firms are registered with them.

Ahmad AlFalasi, CEO, Corporate Services & Investment, Dubai Tourism, said they are “aware of the matter and have been in touch with landlords who have partnered with Don Holiday Homes Rental LLC.

“The disputes management team has agreed on amicable settlements between landlords, tenants and the operator and as of today, the majority of issues have been resolved with a few that are due to be settled very soon,” said AlFalasi.

“The Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) has always taken necessary measures to regulate the rental of holiday homes. The Dubai Tourism dispute management department aims to amicably solve disputes and conflicts within our jurisdiction and we coordinate between all parties to try to reach to a settlement that is agreeable for all parties,” he added.

But the homeowners appear far from convinced. “There are dozens of complaints against both these companies but no action has been taken against them as yet,” said a woman who dealt with Don Holiday.

Place Holiday has shut down while emails sent to The Don Holiday Home, also located in Business Bay, remain unanswered.

Anatomy of a scam 

1) Dodgy holiday home company approaches landlords who list their homes on property rental websites

2) Landlords are promised high rental returns in four cheques but their units are given away to tenants way below market price against a single cheque

3) While the holiday homes firm gets the entire year’s rent money from tenants upfront, the landlords barely get anything as the cheques given to them turn out to be dud

4) The landlord loses not just rental income but is denied access to his own home as the tenant has a separate tenancy contract with the holiday firm which has either shut down or remains evasive.