Until now service charge defaulters were being denied access to their building's swimming pools, gymnasiums and car parks, but soon they could be barred from entering their homes.
A terse notice by master developer Nakheel has warned Discovery Gardens "owners and occupants" that they could be stopped from entering their building if they don't pay their outstanding service charges by January 25.
"The service charge is duly approved by the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Rera) and due for payment as of November 17, 2011. It was noticed that several apartment owners have not cleared their dues. This list of service charges should be cleared/paid on or before January 25, 2012, failing which Nakheel will take legal action against the defaulters which may even result in restricting access to the building," reads the notice put up in the lobbies of some buildings in Discovery Gardens on December 22.
The 26 million square foot development has 291 buildings and is home to thousands of residents.
As part of a name and shame campaign, Nakheel has also put up lists of service fee defaulters along with their apartment numbers and the amount owed.
"This [the list] is to protect the best interest of those owners who paid their dues and to maintain services in a building undisturbed due to negligence of the defaulters. Owners' Association charges have been billed based on Rera's approved budget," a Nakheel spokesperson said. Asked if Nakheel will keep tenants out of the building if their landlords fail to pay service charges, he said: "We will take action as per the rules and obligations and the contractual obligation between the owners and developers."
According to two notices seen by XPRESS, one building owed around Dh833,000 and another owed Dh1.2 million to Nakheel in outstanding service charges.
In the past, Discovery Gardens residents have faced water and air conditioning cuts due to unpaid bills. But now they are staring at the prospect of being locked out of their homes. "I am in a state of shock ever since I saw the notice. I didn't know they would go to such extremes," a resident said. A flat owner whose building water supply was cut off a few weeks back said it was harsh to penalise people who pay service fees on time.
"For a 987 square foot one-bedroom flat, I pay Dh19,000 per annum as service fee. It's way too high and the services I get are not on a par. For instance, I am paying fees for a swimming pool that's not yet opened. My building doesn't have any security. Despite this, I pay the entire year's service fees in advance and yet they cut off my water! Why is it that the residents of the entire building have to suffer because of some defaulters?"
Lists of service fee defaulters have also been put up in International City. A defaulting England Cluster flat owner said he will not pay his dues of Dh12,000 as it's "exorbitantly high" for a 740 square foot one-bed unit. "Should I rent it out for Dh24,000, half goes towards service charge and the building will still be ill-maintained."
Recently Emaar too had put out names of its defaulters in The Greens. Emaar told XPRESS its decision was in line with the recommendation of the interim boards of owner associations and after due reviews by authorities.
Significantly, Rera's CEO Marwan bin Ghalita has said that no one can stop an owner or a registered tenant from using the communal areas once they have paid service fees. "If you bought something based on an agreement with a developer, he can't change it," he was quoted as saying.