Dubai’s property firms cut off elevators, access to gyms, pools to get homeowners to pay fees
Dubai: Are you finding that not all of the lifts at your freehold residential or mixed-use office tower are not operational all the time? Do you find the gym and pool at your building going off limits because of some maintenance work or the other?
Well then, you are not alone as property management companies come up with ways to cut down on their operating costs. And the easiest way to do that? Save on utility bills.
This issue could escalate during peak summer, and if these property management firms manage to get a few savings from reducing the number of lifts in operation during the day, then it does add up to some savings. But can they do that?
Sources at property and facilities management companies say they have no option as they are still way behind on their 2021 service charge collections. And whatever they get as payments from property owners, the bulk of it goes to service their power and water bills. In doing so, these businesses may be treading a fine line between what’s allowed and what’s not.
According to Sameer Lakhani, Managing Director at Global Capital Partners, this issue of lifts made non-operational is seen more at freehold residential towers. In recent weeks, more such instances are showing up on the radar, adding to the tension between property owners and the OA (owners association) companies handling the property upkeep.
“Not operating all the elevators can be deemed as ‘denial of service’, and without valid maintenance reasons, property companies cannot do so,” said Lakhani. “Or such tactics need to be entered into contractual agreements prior to taking such action.
“Because denial of service affects even those who are up to date on their service fee payments. OA companies will need to think of other ways to get people to pay up.”
Even the laws regarding building upkeep and service charges do not allow such drastic action – unless specified in the initial contracts. Even then, how can reducing the number of lifts in operation distinguish between those who have paid and those who haven’t?
“If two out of the eight lifts at a tower are shut off through most of the day, it leads to more waiting time,” said a resident at one residential tower. “With strict health and safety rules on the number of people who can occupy a lift at any one time, it adds to the waiting if all lifts are not made to work.”
In comparison, it’s a far more straight forward matter to deny access to the pool or gym for those who haven’t been up to date on their property service fees. But over and above everything, it shouldn’t be that property owners “who are paying are being penalized,” added Lakhani.
“There has to be a collective approach and that starts with homeowners who have paid being on board when such decisions are made. In high-rise structures, there are ways that this can be done that involve non-connection of particular units to DEWA services or non-access to the pool/gym until outstanding amounts are cleared.
“Or, service fees can be brought down by isolating those common services that require separate fees for access to pools or gyms.”
Needs resolving – urgently
Property owners ‘Gulf News’ spoke to agree with Lakhani’s contention that denial of services hurts everyone. “It’s an imperfect system – cutting down on the lift usage should not even be solution,” said one owner. “Property management companies cannot bring in ad hoc measures to resolve this issue.”
Any property owner or tenant forced to wait in the lobby or on their floor waiting for a lift to turn up will support that view.