DUBAI: Some 150 owners associations have been approved by authorities, but they still face complex technical hurdles before any can legally take action.

The figure was revealed by Marwan bin Ghalaita, the chief executive of the Real Estate Regulatory Authority, at a talk Wednesday night.

The number far exceeds previous estimates that have been publicised since a law mandating the associations took effect last October.

Under the strata law, the associations are supposed to take over control of building maintenance and fees from the building developers.

However, the associations have not yet been able to do what the law requires. For example, the law requires the associations to get a special licence that does not yet appear to exist.

“The process for implementation doesn’t come in six months or seven months,” said Ahmed al Hamdani, an official at the authority’s Owner Association Regulatory Section, while answering questions at a seminar for apartment owners yesterday.

“Whenever you draft any law, you have to do a transition period.”

The 150 owners associations (OAs) that have been approved do not yet manage their own bank accounts. Some of the building developers have opened accounts on the associations’ behalf, and have received approval from the associations before tapping the funds, Mr Hamdani said.

The associations also lack important documents that detail exactly what they are supposed to manage. These include plans for maintaining areas of apartment buildings that are considered jointly owned.

Developers are required to draft these plans, and let the associations review them. The process of doing so can be lengthy and contentious.

“There’s no foundation document on which they can run,” said Mr Hamdani.

The associations have, however, taken the initial step of electing boards to represent them. They have also secured the approval of the regulatory association for the elected board members.

“The interim OAs are formally registered, that is correct. But if these owners came and said they wanted to do X, Y and Z, I’m not sure that’s within the mandate of what they can do or can enforce via the current regulations,” said Robert Pacella, managing director of Emirates Conveyancing, which handles property transactions.

Next, each association must receive a special licence so that it can be legally recognised, and can open a bank account, among other undertakings.

However, the OA-specific licence does not seem to exist yet, according to Ludmila Yamalova, the managing partner at JPL Yamalova & Plewka legal consultancy, who specialises in property. Instead, some groups may have received temporary certificates, she said.

The overall process could take months, said Jeevan D’Mello, the senior director of community management at Emaar, a major developer, while leading the OA awareness presentation yesterday.

“It takes time. It might take three months, six months, sometimes maybe even a year if it is a very big association,” he told the crowd of about 70 apartment owners.

One audience member complained that the regulatory authority had inflated owner expectations by setting the October 2010 deadline for OAs to be registered.

“I don’t think you can blame OAs for saying, ‘Why hasn’t it been done?'” he said.

In recent weeks, the regulatory body seems to have put more pressure on developers to register their OAs by calling meetings to elect a board, said Adrian Quinn, the chairman of Essential Community Management, which helps owners form and manage associations.

Proactive owners are putting the pressure on the authority. Many pay regular visits to Mr Hamdani and Mr Ghalaita.

“Owners need to be aware: Rera doors are open for everyone,” said an owner of several properties who declined to be named. “I go all the time.”

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