Residents of the fire-hit Tamweel Tower in Dubai will be able to return home next month after official documents are signed – but they have been ordered to pay outstanding service charges first.
Sources told Arabian Business that some residents are liable for service charge bills worth tens of thousands of dirhams, as expenses have been incurred even while the building has been empty.
The 34-storey residential tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) was engulfed in flames in November 2012, but repair work did not complete until June 2016 and residents have claimed they have been in limbo, unable to return to their homes.
Arabian Business reported in May that a key document had been submitted to the authorities to give the building the all-clear for occupation later this summer.
Sources say the building has since been handed over and residents will be able to return home in July, pending completion of final documentation.
However, some owners have not paid service charges while the building has been empty and are being hit with hefty bills.
One owner-occupier told Arabian Business: “We have been informed that the building has been fixed and are waiting to hear when we’ll be able to move back in.
“However, I have received a bill for AED25,000 ($6,800) for retrospective service charges for the past three years even though my apartment has been uninhabitable.
“It is not fair that I should have to fork out this money, even though I have not been able to live in my property.”
Another source confirmed that residents have been asked to pay outstanding service charges before moving back in, but insisted the costs have been minimal since the fire.
The charges comprise basic plumbing and electricity costs, community charges imposed by JLT free zone authority Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), cooling charges by Empower and other basic maintenance costs necessary while repair work has been ongoing, the source said.
The source added that service charges are dependent on the size of the property, but average around AED15-18 per square foot (/sq ft) during normal occupation. The average cost has dropped to around AED7/sq ft while the building has been empty.
“You can’t simply walk away from the building,” the source said. “There are some people who have been paying every year since the fire, while others have chosen not to, believing they would not be liable. Why should some pay and not others?”
The source added that the service charge issue had been addressed “multiple times” at tenants association meetings since the fire.
Masoud Nayebi, chairman of the Tamweel Tower Residents Association, which is responsible for the upkeep of the tower and has been the ‘go-between’ for residents and insurance firms since the fire, confirmed: “The owners who have not yet paid their service charges have to settle them before they move [back] in to the tower.”
Nayebi explained: “Though the building has been vacant for about five years, in order to save it from deteriorating we had to incur expense to maintain it. Obviously the expenses had to be approved by RERA (Dubai’s Real Estate Regulatory Agency) before charging to the owners.
“Some of the expenses, like DEWA, cooling consumption and security, were taken over by the insurers once the tower was handed to them two years ago [to oversee repair work].
“But other expenses like the community service charge, Empower demand charge, insurance, building manager fee etcetera have been paid for by the association board, which is elected by the owners, and collects service charges from them.
“[Some owners] have certainly received yearly invoices when they have been issued based on the budget approved by RERA, but decided not pay.
“There have been other owners who have dutifully and enthusiastically been paying their yearly service charge.”
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