Indigo Tower developer praised for Strata Law progress

Developer hired consultant to help it with regulations and invited owners to form interim association in January before handing over effective control.

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DUBAI // Not all homeowners are frustrated by the strata law: at Indigo Tower in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, apartment owners cannot praise their developer enough.

Months before the law was passed, the developer hired an owners' association consultant to help it comply with the coming regulations.

In January, the developer of Indigo Tower invited owners to form an interim association. Soon after, the developer handed over effective control of building maintenance, and costs.

Adil Moos, a member of the owners' association, said: "They are straight as an arrow, totally above board."

He and other owners set to work quickly, holding meetings every Saturday to review costs, raise concerns, and find solutions. They managed to cut service fees from the proposed amount of Dh16 per square foot, to Dh12 per sq ft. They also negotiated down the insurance premium for the building, and dismissed the consultants whom the developer had hired.

Since the owners were not legally authorised to open a bank account and write cheques, they gave the money to the developer to do so for them.

The owners even oversee minor problems: when the gym equipment wore down, they arranged to have it repaired. When smokers kept dropping their ash around the pool area, one board member went out and bought heavy-duty ashtrays to keep the area tidier.

They and their developer are at the proactive end of the strata law spectrum. Michael Ryall, a director at Place Strata Management, which works with owners' associations, said some owners meet twice a month, others twice a year. "It comes down to the boards themselves."

Likewise, Mr Ryall said, "some developers are really good, and really let the owners get involved and are embracing the whole process.

"Others, not so," he said. "It really is a mix."

Many property owners have stopped paying service charges levied by developers, in part to protest what they consider outrageous rates, and in part because they do not trust how the money will be used.

Without the funds to pay for proper upkeep, their properties are losing value.

Adrian Quinn, the chairman of Essential Community Management, which advises owners’ associations, said: “The hardest part is trying to get money in from outstanding owners.”

Many associations refuse to pay, except into an independent bank account, which they cannot open until they win legal standing, he explained.
"The longer Rera delays their registration, the longer these buildings are running down."

In one building in the Marina, owners have had to chip in an extra Dh500,000 in fees to cover for their delinquent colleagues, said one owner who asked not to be named.