Trouble at the £1bn Burj Khalifa tower: Spiralling service costs see landlords falling behind on their bills

Despite paying more than £40,000 a year to live in one of Dubai’s most exclusive addresses, residents are being denied access to the gym and tennis courts – and they fear the lifts in the world’s tallest building could be next

From their apartment on the 98th floor of the world’s tallest building, Mahi Golchin-Depala and her family could see far out across the Persian Gulf from one window, and the sands of Dubai inland from the other.

Below them lay the islands built on the sea in the shape of the world, in stark white relief against the aquamarine. The distinctive high rise of the coral pink Atlantis hotel and water park lay before them, its dimensions flattened by their viewpoint, nearly 800 metres up the Burj Khalifa tower.

“The most amazing thing was when it was cloudy. You would be just surrounded by white. You could open the windows and literally touch the clouds,” she says.

The people of Dubai are naturally proud of this tall, elegant sliver of glass, steel and concrete, jabbing the sky above the desert city. It is, famously, the tallest building in the world, in one of the fastest growing cities on the planet.

But for many of the residents in its 1,000 super-chi-chi apartments, the “white-glove” service for which the Burj is famed is falling well below their hopes. Especially after paying a rent which hovers around £40,000 a year for two-bedrooms, or more for a view of the fountains at its base (the world’s biggest, naturally). Because, according to local reports this week, some have been finding their keycards will not gain them access to facilities like the gym, the pool, the tennis courts. Some residents fear even the lifts may soon be out of bounds – no joke for those living on the 98th floor.

At issue is the fact that the building’s owner, Emaar, has been finding some of the apartments’ owners have not been keeping up with the maintenance bills. Having given them “repeated reminders”, Emaar says, some have still not paid their dues, so now, access to communal services is being withdrawn .

Ms Golchin-Depala, who owns several apartments in the building, points out that it isn’t usually the owner of the flats left having to take the stairs: “It’s the tenants who suffer,” she says. “They’r e only renting but if their landlords don’t keep up with the fees, they get their access blocked.”

There has even been talk that Emaar will put up a name-and-shame list in the lobby listing all those who are behind on their bills.

“You’ve seen that at other developments in Dubai,” says Ms Golchin-Depala. “They have a list at the entrance saying who hasn’t paid their maintenance fee. Then, when you pay, they put a sticker up that says ‘paid.’”

Sometimes, it’s just landlords getting greedy, but for others, it’s a matter of cost. For, while you may pay £1.1m for your two-bedroom flat, you could find the service charge crippling you at £155,000 a year on top.

Local reports last year suggested the service charges were being hiked by 27 per cent.

Ms Golchin-Depala says: “Dubai may be tax free but it isn’t fee free. People can’t afford the fees and some haven’t paid for two years or more.”

It’s not just the maintenance charges that are rising – property prices themselves have surged in the past few years since collapsing during the financial crisis. Cluttons estate agents said apartments in the Burj jumped 25 per cent in 2013.

One local property investor says: “It has been a boomtown since the instability of the Arab Spring, with investors from countries like Egypt, Iran and Lebanon buying here because it feels safe and secure.

“Then, of course, nobody likes to mention them, but there are those from all over the world who launder their wealth here by buying property, too.”

Rents are rising fast, too. Sarah El-Said, a married mother of two, just relocated for the fourth time since arriving in Dubai in 2008 due to spiralling rents. She describes the situation as “ insane”, telling the Bloomberg news agency: “It’s like you have to move house every two years. You feel no stability in where you live and you’re always at the mercy of landlords whose sole interest is making more money.” Rents surged 15 per cent on average last year, mainly squeezing the 80 per cent expat community.

Dubai’s victory in winning the Expo 2020 – the modern legacy of the London Great Exhibition of 1851 – will only make living costs even more expensive, residents fear.

One said: “It’s getting to the situation where some people will be moving out of the Marina, Jumeira Beach and The Greens to the less desirable developments like Festival City.”

There is an irony to Emaar’s difficulties extracting cash from its Burj Khalifa clients. Because the tower would have been bankrupt at birth were it not for the Dubai rulers’ skill in negotiating a bailout from its oil-rich neighbouring emirate, Abu Dhabi during Dubai’s debt crisis in 2009. Dubai negotiated direct and indirect bailouts totalling $25bn from its more sensible, and infinitely richer, brother just before the building was inaugurated.

Its saviour’s price? To have the tower’s name changed from the Burj Dubai to that of the Abu Dhabi ruler, Sheik Khalifa.

Leaders of Dubai’s neighbouring emirates were said to be smirking at the flashy profligacy of the country for spending nearly £1bn on one building just as it was plunging into a financial sandstorm. But, just like the sandstorms that hit Dubai periodically are quickly cleaned away, beside the name on its tallest building, now there is little trace of the crisis. As the country’s leader and Godolphin stables owner Sheikh Maktoum had planned from the outset, Dubai has made up for its relative lack of oil by becoming an international trading and financial centre for the region.

The question is, can he keep a lid on the property speculators who are pricing out the very expats he has been trying to attract?

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice