Dubai Municipality suspends default billing system for housing fees
A barrage of complaints from residents about overcharged housing fee has forced Dubai authorities to temporarily suspend an electronic system that bills expatriates by default if they do not register their home details, Khaleej Times has learnt.
The huge number of complainants has also prompted them to assign two new offices for the swift handling of the complaints and for corrections, senior officials have confirmed. The billing of Dubai Municipality’s (DM) housing fee had drawn flak from many expats ever since the civic body implemented a new system of charging all residential units through their monthly utility bills issued by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa).
From January this year, the municipality had started charging the fee — levied for municipal services across the emirate — along with the water and electricity bills of residents. For leased units, the housing fee is five percent of their monthly rent. For residential units in freehold properties, the fee is the five percent monthly rental value of properties with similar dimensions in their areas, as estimated by the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA).
The municipality also launched an online registration system for tenants and freehold home owners to register the details of their housing units on the DM website. Failure in registering would result in billing by default that will be based on the RERA index, the civic body had warned.
With only about 20 percent of the units registered online, the municipality had started charging several homes by default. Angered by the overcharges, residents were thronging the Dewa headquarters where a single section of DM handled the complaints and corrections.
Abdulla Hashim AbdulGhafoor, the Head of Marketing and Housing Fees Unit in the DM’s Finance Department told Khaleej Times that the system of billing by default had been suspended due to the overwhelming number of complainants heading to Dewa headquarters for getting their housing fee corrected as per their actual rent. “When we bill by default, the fees can be different because there was no system to recognise the actual number of rooms in a unit. So, the rent somebody who did not register the details online is paying will be different in the system and their fee also will be different,” he said, explaining the reason for the complaints.
Moreover, complainants were running between the Dewa and the DM for making the corrections. And their documents had to be physically transferred between the two departments, the official said, resulting in long delays before corrections are made. “We are now in the process of negotiating a practical plan for Dewa to restart billing. Once they start billing (as per a new plan), all complaints will stop,” he said adding that the number of complaints had come down after Dewa stopped billing by default. However, the complaints had already forced the DM to shift its counter in the Dewa headquarters to its branches in Al Tawar and Al Manara.
Abdullah Al Hajri, the executive vice-president of the Dewa, said more than 90 percent of the complaints that came to the Dewa were related to the DM’s housing fee.
“Since DM is the authority to take a final decision on housing fees, the whole function (of the housing fee section) has been shifted from our headquarters to make things smooth.” He said the Dewa and the DM also revamped the electronic system that linked their databases so that corrections in housing fees can be instantly transferred from the database of the DM to that of the Dewa.
AbdulGhafoor said the corrections made at the DM centres at Al Tawar and Al Manara would now reflect in utility bill of complainants from the very next month. “Since there are two offices now catering to both North and South of Dubai, the rush is less and corrections are made faster,” he said, adding that those who had registered online and those with new utility connections continue to be billed as accurate details about their accommodation are already on the newly integrated system.