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Sat 12 Nov 2005 04:00 AM

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Springs residents speak out on ‘service charges’

Designed to be havens of peace away from the bustle of the city, Dubai’s gated communites are now up in arms over controversial service charges. Angela Giuffrida reports.

Developers in Dubai are facing pressure from residents to reduce what they see as prohibitively expensive service charges.

Residents of Emaar’s gated communities in Dubai are the latest homeowners to demand greater clarity over how much it costs to maintain their facilities.

Communities in the Marina, the Greens and Emirates Hills, which includes the Meadows and the Springs, claim they are being forced to pay for amenities that were initially sold to them ‘free of charge’.

They also claim that Emaar has under-delivered on its commitment to provide certain facilities and is failing over security measures.

Residents say that they are being charged up to US $1630 (AED6000) per family for annual use of the community centre, which is set to open in January next year and includes a gym, swimming pool and nursery.

This and other grievances prompted homeowners to set up their own action group. The Interim Steering Commitee (ISC), which is made up of 250 volunteers, hopes the move will force Emaar to address its after-sales customer service policy as well as pave the way for better consultation with its homebuyers.

“All three communities have a common denominator with respect to Emaar: transparency,” said Martin Seward-Case, a spokesperson for the ISC and resident of the Springs.“Whilst the Marina and Greens residents have made significant headway in moving closer to agreeing service charges, the Meadows and Springs are in an entirely different situation.”

In less than five years, Emaar built almost 6000 homes within the 23 zones that make up the three communities. Mr Seward-Case added that a unique lifestyle was sold along with the property, although there was no legal obligation for the company to provide this.

“We were all told that we’d get a community centre just like the one at the Lakes, and free of charge. Despite there being no written agreement, when you get more than 200 people saying the same thing, then there must be some truth in it — all we demand is complete transparency over the costs involved to use these centres.”

“We have no right to challenge any of the decisions made by Emaar; this [ranges] from home alteration requests to health and safety issues. If they consulted us before making the decision to resolve our problems then we might be able to help — but all they’re doing at the moment is setting themselves up for criticism,” said Mr Seaward-Case.

A detailed ‘scorecard survey’ on these and other issues is being conducted among the residents and will soon be presented to Emaar. “We’re not approaching this with a sense of entitlement —[but] it would be a good idea to have a dialogue with residents,” added Mr Seaward-Case. Emaar was unavailable for comment.

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