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Diary of a distressed property investor, Part IV.
I headed to Rera for help, and found myself running from one government building to another looking for answers. I got a few.
March 29, 2009 4:59 by Dana El Baltaji
So I went to room 413, where I found a waiting room with three people: two men and one woman, each sitting behind a desk chatting. I sat down and waited. Finally, one of the consultants turned to me and asked me what the problem was. I explained the whole thing. He said I should take my case to the Dubai Courts, and to speak to someone in the real estate section. I asked him why I had been told to come to Rera. He said he didn’t know.
Neither did I.
So I went to the Dubai Courts. I asked where the real estate department is, and I was taken by a helper to the department, and that’s when it hit me: no wonder developers feel they can do what they want. The department was made up of four men, two of which were throwing paper balls at each other, the third guy, the receptionist, was playing a game on his phone, and fourth man, the only one who was helping, was neither in mood nor capable of speaking English.
I spoke to him with my broken Arabic, explaining the mess I’m in and what I need from my developer (my money, my dignity, plus 9 percent interest). He was helpful, and once we got talking, he proved to be helpful. But the process he outlined hurt my brain.
He told me to draft a letter stating all the laws my developer has broken, and have it translated in Arabic. Then I should go to the public notary at the Dubai Court and have the letter authenticated. The court would then send the letter to the developer in the hopes that the mavericks would run to their escrow account and withdraw my cash.
If that doesn’t work, he said, go to court.
Court! I have never gone to court before. I didn’t even know how much hiring a lawyer costs. So I called a number of British and Emirati law firms to get an idea.
Apparently, here’s how it works: if I seek legal representation from a foreign lawyer, I’d have to pay him or her up to AED1,800 an hour for the ground work, but I’d also have to pay court fees and hire a local lawyer – who’d get up to 15 percent of what the court awards me – if my case goes to court. So, my foreign lawyer would act as a consultant to my local lawyer; in short, I’d have a team of lawyers, and I could kiss my present and future savings goodbye.
Or, I can go straight to a local lawyer and pay him or her directly. But then I wouldn’t have peace of mind.
It’s a tough choice, especially given that what little money I have is tied in a phantom property.