Homefront: 'The developer is denying access to a storeroom that is legally ours'

The owner of the Dubai property had accepted the room as compensation for a floor space deficit

I purchased a Dubai apartment from a developer in 2007. Upon final handover in 2011, the developer measured the floor space and found a deficit of nearly 12.6 square metres, approximately 13 per cent of the total. The sales agreement, prepared by law firm Clyde & Company, states that if the floor space differed by more than 5 per cent, there would be compensation for the lost or gained space.

The developer prepared an addendum to the sales agreement, whereby we accepted a storeroom as compensation for the lost floor space as they said they had no funds to pay the compensation in cash. We were given the keys to the storeroom and it was used until October 2019. Then my tenant left and I hired a real estate agent, who went to check the storeroom and found the key did not fit any longer. It appears the developer changed the locks and now refuses to give us access.  

My understanding is that in doing this the developer has broken the terms of the addendum whereby I accepted the storeroom as final compensation. I just want this settled amicably and am happy to accept either the return of the storeroom or cash compensation. However, the developer is not responding to emails or answering phone calls.

I am presently residing in Australia after 20 years in Dubai, so I imagine that the developer is thinking that I will not be able to follow up on this issue remotely. What can be done about this? JS, Australia

I think you are correct in your assumption that the developer believes you will not take further action given you don’t live in Dubai any longer and I’m astounded that the developer has acted in the way you describe.

I would advise that either you come to Dubai to meet with the developer face-to-face, armed with the paperwork proving you own the storeroom, or if this is not possible, organise for a power-of-attorney to follow up on your behalf. The procedure is a little long-winded, but will help you if you cannot come yourself. Firstly, you would need to go to a notary public to draw up the agreement. This document has to then be sent to the UAE embassy in the nearest major Australian city for attestation after which it comes to Dubai and gets authorised/stamped at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The whole document then needs to be translated into Arabic before your representative can act on your behalf.

If you still do not get a satisfactory resolution or response from the developer either in person or through a representative, I would involve the police. It is clear to me that as you are the legal owner of the storeroom, the police should regard this as theft by the developer and therefore take the necessary action to rectify the situation.

Mario Volpi is the sales and leasing manager at Engel & Volkers. He has worked in the property sector for 35 years in London and Dubai

The opinions expressed do not constitute legal advice and are provided for information only. Please send any questions to mario.volpi@engelvoelkers.com