Burj Khalifa residents risk getting locked out of lifts unless service fees are paid

Tenants of Burj Khalifa, some living as high as the 108th floor, face being locked out of elevators and having air conditioning switched off on Saturday if landlords do not settle their bills.

Emaar has warned residents of Burj Khalifa it would deactivate access cards to the world’s tallest building -  cutting off access to elevators and car parks - if service fees are not paid by Febraury 5. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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DUBAI // Residents of the world's tallest building fear they will have to take to the stairs if their landlords do not pay outstanding service fees.

Burj Khalifa tenants living as high up as the 108th floor could be locked out of elevators and car parks if landlords do not settle the charges by Saturday.

The developer Emaar has also warned that security cards giving access to the building will be deactivated. Services such as air conditioning will also be switched off.

“It’s one thing to do this in a five-storey building. It’s another thing for the tallest building in the world,” said K K, who lives above the 20th floor.

“The two big things for us are the AC and the elevator. You can’t open a window here so it will be like sitting in a box. We can’t walk up and down all those floors so we may have to stay with friends.

“We’ve made our payments to the landlord, we have fulfilled everything in our agreement. They are punishing the wrong person.”

In the 829.8-metre tall building, studios and one to four-bedroom apartments are between levels 19 and 108.

Letters were issued last month warning residents that entry to the car park, gym, pool and tennis courts would also be denied when access cards are deactivated.

“We write to you in respect of outstanding service fees. Despite our earlier notice, follow-ups and legal notice issued to the unit owner the fees have not been settled,” stated the Emaar letter dated January 27.

“Should we fail to receive the payment by February 5, we will be forced to cease all of the above services effective February 8.”

The developer did not provide the number of tenants whose access would be revoked.

“The service charges for residents go to the management and maintenance of the common areas, for the overall and long-term welfare of all residents,” said an Emaar spokesman.

“While most homeowners have paid their service charges, it has been noticed that a few owners are yet to make the payment.

“A circular has been issued to remind and urge residents to pay the service charges to ensure the seamless management of the common areas and other community amenities.

“For the welfare of all residents it is the responsibility of individual homeowners to make the service charge on time.”

Conflicts between landlords and developers over service fees have occurred frequently in the past. Companies such as Emaar have asked tenants to confirm if their landlords have paid service charges before signing rent contracts and moving in.

Employees at the Burj’s security and services offices said they had been receiving calls from worried tenants. “Yes, it’s true there are many people calling,” said an employee. “We have told them to ask the landlord to call us.

“The letter is very clear and they have received it if they have not paid service fees for a long time and there is a big outstanding amount.”

Tenants have appealed for an extension or for the developer to deal with the landlords.

Owners and tenants cannot be legally prevented from entering their property, said Dubai lawyer Devanand Mahadev.

“The building facilitator cannot shut down need-to-have facilities like electricity, water and access to the lifts,” Mr Mahadev said.

“They can shut down access to the gym and pool. Only authorities like Dewa, for instance, can shut down a service in case of non-payment, not the developer or the landlord. Residents cannot walk up such a tall building, they need to use the lifts.

“The landlord is responsible for payment of service charges but the tenant should also not get into a contract without a clearance letter from the building management that all fees are settled.”

Over the past two years, Emaar has started to identify properties that are behind on service charges on default boards put up at the entrances to Arabian Ranches, The Lakes, Springs and The Greens.

The developer Nakheel turned off air-conditioning for a number of hours to villas in Jumeirah Islands last year, and in 2011 barred beach access for Shoreline residents on the Palm Jumeirah in a dispute over outstanding fees.