Tenants left homeless when a fire engulfed Tamweel Tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers nearly three months ago are unlikely to be able to return to the building until at least the end of the year.
The slow progress in repairing the 34-storey tower, which has been closed since half of it was burnt on November 18, last year, has left renters and unit owners hundreds of thousands of dirhams out of pocket, on top of property losses.
Owner-occupiers and tenants have been forced to pay for alternative accommodation, while investors have lost rental income and the Islamic finance company Tamweel, which owns three floors, has been forced to relocate to Deira, on the other side of the city.
Owner-occupier Arif Halela estimates he is already AED250,000 (US$68,000) out of pocket, including items lost in the fire and 12 months’ rent for his family, including a 16-month-old baby.
Half of Halela’s apartment on level 29 was either burnt or damaged by smoke. “It was devastating,” he told Arabian Business. “When we saw the apartment on the third day after the fire we knew we wouldn’t be in there soon.”
But the delay in starting work at the tower has Halela worried that his home will not be ready by the time his present one-year lease ends.
“I’m not confident, no,” he said. “I was of the opinion that work should have already started or at least the consultation period.
“In three months there’s been absolutely no progress, to the extent that the building hasn’t been covered up. The progress has been frustratingly slow.”
A Dubai Police forensic report ruled that the fire started when a cigarette butt ignited a pile a rubbish left outside the building by contractors that had been working there.
The tower’s insurer Arab Orient has said it will cover the cost of repairing the building structure to its condition at the time of the fire, but it is yet to appoint an engineering firm to carry out an assessment of what work needs to be done. It would then need to approve the work before it could begin.
The tower’s Owners Association chairman Surendra Nayar said consultation work would “hopefully” begin within a week. “It keeps slipping back,” he told Arabian Business.
Nayar said it was also too early to know whether Arab Orient would agree to pay for the full repairs recommended by the engineers. Any disagreement could delay the work even further.
“For example, if a particular door needs to be replaced and they think it can be repaired there will a bit of give and take, which is frustrating as well,” he said. “I’m going to show my frustration at every [negotiation].”
Nayer said while it was slow progress so far, negotiations had been amicable. “[Association] members are working 24 hours a day, practically,” he said. “We’d all like to go back tomorrow if possible but we realise it has to be done properly.”
Nayer owns one of the affected apartments on level 28 and believes he is out of pocket by at least AED180,000 despite having home and contents insurance. He is yet to receive a response to his insurance claim.
“Even if insurance pays [for damage to] the building there’s always other bits and pieces that aren’t included,” he said. “My apartment was perfectly decorated... all that is gone... and paint isn’t covered by insurance.
“By the grace of God I can absorb [the cost]... but I feel sad for people who could not afford the loss or who were badly hit.”
Arab Orient had agreed to pay for the first month of alternative accommodation for owner-occupiers but has so far refused the same offer for renters.
Nayer said the Owners Association, which includes six apartment owners and three members from Tamweel, was fighting on renters’ behalf.
Tamweel also offered to pay the interest on apartment owners’ mortgages that had been taken out with the financier.