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Dubai: Hundreds of residents fighting not to lose life savings in property battle

Story Highlights
  • Several of these investors have now turned to the courts in a desperate bid for justice and for their dream homes

Dubai: Hundreds of residents fighting not to lose life savings in property battle

After living in a rented apartment for 40 years, MK* dreamed of buying a property for his family. After much research and deliberation, the expat (who was born and raised in the UAE) finally chose a property at Falconcity of Wonders – Eastern Residence worth Dh4 million. But after investing Dh1.6 million into the property, he is now unsure if he will get his dream home or his money back.

MK is not alone. Hundreds of other individuals in Dubai, who invested in the same project, are currently living in fear of losing their homes and life savings after the plots on which their homes have been built were auctioned off following a legal dispute between Falcon Properties and Dubailand (LLC).

More than 20 investors approached Khaleej Times in desperation, seeking to have their voices heard and to receive justice. “I have no answers for my family and children who keep asking me when we are moving into our new home,” says an anguished MK. “We had no idea what was happening or when the property slipped out of our hands; we just kept paying.”

So, what exactly went wrong?

THE PERFECT PLOT

The Falconcity of Wonders project launched in 2005 at Dubailand was a unique mixed-use plan, integrating commercial, residential, and entertainment facilities. It promised to bring ‘wonders from around the world’ to Dubai — including the Pyramids, Taj Mahal, and Leaning Tower of Pisa. Although delayed, the Western Residence was completed and now has an established residential area.

In 2021, as the UAE and the world recovered from the Covid era, there was a growing demand for spacious living areas. Villas became highly sought-after properties. Responding to this demand, Falconcity launched the sale of the Eastern Residence with renewed vigour.

From first-time buyers to seasoned investors, everyone was sold on the project, unaware of a long-drawn dispute simmering between Falconcity and Dubailand over unsettled dues.

As per Dubai Courts documents seen by Khaleej Times, Falconcity was ordered to pay Dubailand Dh1.3 billion back in October 2020. Failure to do so resulted in the developer’s property — specifically, the project in the Wadi Al Safa 2 area — being officially seized in January 2021.

The Dubai Land Department (DLD) then warned that the property would be sold at an auction if the debt was not paid in 15 days. In July 2023, Falconcity was notified by email that the sale of their property would proceed due to failure to repay the debt.

After several attempts to sell the land, the court finally ruled in favour of awarding the auction to Dubailand LLC (the bidder) in October 2023.

UNSUSPECTING BUYERS

Despite the ongoing court dispute between the two parties, Falconcity’s sales team proceeded to sell more than 400 villas to aspiring home owners. Buyers say large hoardings were set up along major highways and models of the project were also a prominent fixture at major property fairs.

These buyers are now desperately seeking answers. Angry and disappointed, Abu Ahmad, 52, said, “I was sceptical about off-plan properties, but was reassured by my real estate agent that Falconcity is a reputed property developer. I sold a house in Dubai and a property in my home country, to raise the funds to purchase a 5-bedroom villa in Falconcity. The agreement was to pay 50 per cent upfront and get the land title deed and the other 50 per cent upon villa handover.

The Indian said, “I paid the agreed amount and signed the sales purchase agreement. When it was time to register the title deed with DLD, there was a block. We had no idea what was happening behind the glossy brochures and massive advertisements. Was the master developer not aware of what was happening? Who will help us get our home now?”

MK confirmed the same. “In early 2022, the plots were not being registered due to an ongoing court case. The broker and sales managers assured us that there was nothing to worry about, as they were resolving the issues. They said in the worst-case scenario, our money would be protected.

“By February 2023, the show villa was ready, and we could see our dreams materialising. I saw the structure of my villa was also ready. But, on August 28, we saw a huge advertisement announcing the auction of the land we had purchased. My heart sank.”

Living in UAE for more than 20 years, DK, 49, also invested all his savings in Falconcity. “I paid 50 per cent to the developer. However, my dreams turned into a nightmare when the sales team casually informed us that the project has been cancelled, with no definite solution or commitment from the developer to return my money.”

NK, who is not a UAE resident, booked a unit as his retirement home. To fund this, he sold a 3-bedroom villa in Villa Nova (by Dubai Properties). “My investment of Dh1.8 million is stuck with Falconcity and I have lost my Villa Nova property as well.”

‘FEELING CHEATED’

Yet another buyer, Bibi, 38, said, “I invested my money in good faith, only to find that the property has been auctioned off without any prior notification or consideration of my rights as the rightful owner. I decided to visit the sales office to seek answers to my questions.

“When signing the sales purchase agreement, it was agreed that if I paid 50 per cent of the total price, the land would be transferred under my possession. Since I already paid the amount, would the land be transferred under me? The answer was no.”

The Pakistani then asked, “Whether I would be repaid the principal amount and the appreciated value of the land since I had paid the initial 50 per cent. I was informed that, according to the developer, I would only receive the principal amount back, with the broker’s commission deducted.

“My next question was, when will I receive repayment? They told me to sign the cancellation form, assuring payment within 30 days. I promptly signed the cancellation form, relinquishing any claim to land possession or appreciation of funds.

“Instead of the promised 30 days, after 120 days, I received a transfer of Dh59,710, which is only five per cent of the total amount I paid for the villa. Disheartened, I hurried to the Falconcity sales office again, only to be informed that there is no set deadline for the full payment of the remaining amount. “I feel cheated,” said Bibi who has called UAE home for 20 years.

WHO WILL ANSWER?

When KT reached out to Eastern Residence, a sales executive claimed in a phone call that Falconcity had reimbursed the investors. However, when confronted with contradictory evidence, he advised KT to write a formal query.

He later sent a WhatsApp response: “All Falconcity transactions and dealings are subject to confidentiality clauses in their agreements with their clients. It’s not authorized by Falconcity to give any information. Please contact Falconcity head office… You might have better luck there.”

KT made repeated attempts to contact Falconcity of Wonders via email for comment but did not receive any response.

In February this year, a few of the investors visited the Falconcity head office in hopes of resolving the issue. “Instead of showing concern, they called the police on us,” said Indian expat DK.

In addition to the hundreds of sales purchase agreement holders, 18 of the investors are title deed holders who paid 100% of the money to the developers and got the property registered in their names by the Dubai Land Department (DLD).

A title deed legally recognises an individual as the property owner and provides them with legal rights to claim, own, lease, and sell the property unit. Khaleej Times reached out to DLD to ask how properties with title deeds already registered by them could be auctioned off — as well as how Falconcity was allowed to proceed with sales of properties embroiled in a court dispute.

The authority responded saying it works as per court directions and orders. Furthermore, it said it does not comment on cases being handled by judicial authorities.

LAWSUIT FILED

Several of the investors have now turned to the courts, seeking justice. More than 50 of these cases have been filed with the Dubai Holding Judicial Committee (Lagna). Those with knowledge of the matter have received intimation that a final verdict in the matter is expected on March 18.

MK, who is trying to come to terms with his losses, states he had ‘no choice’ but to file a lawsuit. “I had to take out a Dh65,000 loan on a credit card to make this happen.”

One title deed holder, residing in the UAE for more than 40 years, said, “Our only hope lies with the court and the judiciary system now. I am sure we will not be robbed of our rights there.”

Indian expat DG, 43, said, “I put everything I had at the time to buy the villa here. I have lost my trust and my money, and I am losing hope day by day. But I am fighting, holding on to a thread that maybe, someday, I will get my life savings back.”

Abu Ahmad lamented, “When my daughter saw the video of our house, I saw her eyes sparkle with joy. Everyone was deciding on the rooms, the curtains, the paints, and now, brick by brick, everything is crumbling down.”

DK urged the authorities for help. He said, “The situation is very bleak and it’s very stressful for us. I urge the authorities to look into this matter and support the investors to either get their land or money back.”

Forty-two-year-old CD is heartbroken, she stated, “I am one of the buyers who invested Dh1.25 million with the hope of fulfilling my 10-year dream of living in my own house in Dubai. Buying this house is an emotional bond for us, as we had planned a surprise for our parents on the handover date.

“My dreams are shattered and, on top of that, I have to pay the lawyer Dh120,000 to fight my case for my own house. Dh120,000 is a lot of money for me, and I am scrambling to arrange that. For people like us who live a calculated life, it’s a huge amount of money.

“I don’t want my money back. I want my dream home,” said the Indian expat.

*Name initials used to protect investors’ identities upon their request

Copyright © 2022 Khaleej Times. All Rights Reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).
Ajanta Paul

Source
Zawya.com

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