Palm residents caught in beach dispute

Master developer blocks residents’ access, blames owner of beach club for imbroglio

18:14 June 3, 2017
NAT Palm pic

Dubai: Residents of two luxury apartment blocks on the Palm Jumeirah say they have been barred from using the beach over a long-running commercial dispute.

People who live on the Palm often speak of the dream of a peaceful, beachfront living.

A two-bedroom, full-sea view flat on Al Haseer 7 or Al Nabat 8, for example, can cost around Dh3 million.

But for the past seven months, part of that dream has been shattered.

Since mid-October, Nakheel, the Palm’s master-developer has deployed security guards to stop residents getting on the beach.

Residents who try to stray onto the sands can expect to be turned back. In an earlier incident, “security guards demanded all personnel and equipment to be removed from the beach,” reads a letter sent to media by the Owners Association of the two buildings.

“In one instance a lady with her child were so intimidated by security guards that the girl was brought to tears,” the letter said.

Last weekend, the dispute seemed to boil over again when a new document from a Dubai legal firm stated that residents should have the right to access the beach. The Owners Association recounted the moment. “When residents accessed the beach this weekend they were challenged by security guards but the residents stood firm … [and] contested the actions of the security guards.”

When the residents refused to leave the beach, security guards called the police, who did not see the situation as a police matter.

At the centre of the situation is a dispute between two firms — Nakheel and beach club operator IFA.

For the past few months, both IFA and the board of the Owners Association have been lobbying Dubai’s Real Estate Regularity Authority (RERA) to try to and mediate the issue.

But so far, their attempts have failed to produce “any joy,” said Julian Redmond, the Owners Association’s chairman. The Association represents 252 apartments, and around 1,000 residents.

Banned from the sands

“We have seen the value of our properties fall during this time.”

In a strongly-worded statement to Gulf News, Nakheel blamed the IFA for the dispute.

“IFA Hotels and Resorts, owner of RIVA Beach Club has, for almost a decade, charged residents and guests several million dirhams to use the Nakheel-owned beach without our prior permission and without making a single payment to Nakheel.”

Under the terms of the sales contract issued to IFA, beach access is “subject to fees being paid to Nakheel,” the statement aid.

“IFA has continually delayed entering into this agreement and has therefore been charging residents and guests to use a beach that it has no legal right to grant access to.

"In February 2017, the two parties reached a commercial agreement covering IFA’s use of the beach over these past years. Almost four months on, IFA has failed to pay Nakheel. Access will be granted if and when IFA pays for its historical use of the beach and signs a new contract relating to its future use.

"There is currently a conflict of interest between IFA’s roles of Clubhouse owner and as interim Owners Association manager. We urge investors to take the necessary steps to pursue this matter with IFA.

 “We sympathise with the people affected by this situation, but reiterate that our correspondence is with IFA as we have no contractual relationship with individual investors at these two Shoreline buildings. “

"In addition, in December 2016, we offered, via the Owners Association, membership of neighbouring Shoreline beach clubs - with the same terms as existing members - as a solution until the issue is resolved."

IFA declined a request from Gulf News for comment.

Earlier this year, residents of other Shoreline buildings claimed that Nakheel had doubled membership fees.

“Why would we want to pay Nakheel for a 12-month membership, when we are already paying IFA an annual membership?” said Redmond.

“Quite frankly, it’s sad. You see this beautiful coastline, and people are banned from getting on it. It just seems ludicrous.”

What is the issue?

Palm Jumeirah residents are blocked from going on the beach because of a dispute between two firms.

The first is Nakheel, the master developer. The firm claims it is owed huge fees by IFA Hotels and Resorts, a Kuwaiti firm that operates the RIVA Beach Club, for its use of the beach.

IFA, meanwhile, is waiting for the dispute to be resolved by the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA).

Because it has also been barred by Nakheel from accessing the each, the club — despite its name — is confined to operating around the swimming pools.

Under the rules set by the Owners Association, which has seven elected members, each landlord has to pay beach club membership fees.

The Qwners Association claims it is up to date with all payments — both to Nakheel and IFA.