Dubai: Residents of Gardens community 'heartbroken' after receiving eviction notices

Developer Nakheel has served tenants notice of their refurbishment plans, but expats who built their whole lives around the place for decades are struggling with being caught completely off guard

by

Ajanta Paul

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Photo: Bhairavi Mehta
Photo: Bhairavi Mehta

Published: Thu 1 Feb 2024, 7:34 PM

Last updated: Tue 6 Feb 2024, 3:02 PM

For 24 years, Sushma transformed her rented apartment in The Gardens into a cherished family home — her almost 'forever home' — until an eviction letter was stuck on her door 15 days ago.

Dubai's property developer Nakheel is renovating several buildings in the community and has issued hundreds of tenants a one-year eviction notice. In a statement to Khaleej Times, they said, “Nakheel is refurbishing The Gardens Apartments as part of its commitment to further enrich the overall community experience and to enhance standards of living. The refurbishment is being carried out in phases.

"Tenants have been notified in advance in line with the provisions of the local rental law regulating this matter."

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The tenants were initially informed via text messages, followed by a legal order from Dubai Courts asking them to vacate the premises. According to residents, the renovation activities are being conducted in phases, with people residing in Zone 2 (see map below) receiving eviction notices in December and January. Nakheel has completed some renovation of Zone 4, which primarily has two-bedroom apartments.

Sushma has lived in the UAE for 31 years, setting up her home in The Gardens for the most part. Talking to Khaleej Times, the 53-year-old Indian expat said, "I have built my family here in The Gardens; almost half my life has been spent in this community. It broke my heart to receive the eviction notice. We love it here and have witnessed this deserted place transform into a flourishing community from 2000 to 2024.

"My son attended Delhi Private School in the vicinity from Grade 5, and now he is a married man. He works as a fitness coach in the area. Additionally, my husband commutes to Jebel Ali Free Zone, which makes this community exceptionally suitable. As a joint family, we live in a three-bedroom flat, shared by myself, my husband, my son, and his wife. Our life will be turned upside down now."

E Da Silva from Bahrain was caught off-guard after she received her letter. "We arrived in the UAE 16 months ago and took up residence in The Gardens. Before our lease expired, we repeatedly inquired with the leasing office about potential renovation plans for our apartment. We were informed that there were no such plans, and our lease was renewed at the end of November 2023. Shockingly, we found the notice on our door when we returned from vacation in December.

"We were ready to move out but stayed after their reassurance. Imagine the stress we are under now," she said. "We must look for a new house and school for our son and readjust to life well-settled in this community. We are happy here and made friends here."

Tenants are exploring alternative options and searching for locations that meet their requirements without disrupting their lives. Many wonder about the possibility of terminating their contract with Nakheel if they find a place that aligns with their needs.

Photo: The Gardens/Facebook
Photo: The Gardens/Facebook

A Nakheel spokesperson said, "Every effort has been made to ensure as minimal disruption as possible to residents and visitors of the surrounding area while the work is being undertaken. Nakheel maintains its developments to the highest standards, providing unmatched experiences for citizens, residents and visitors of Dubai."

Residents said they have seen pictures of renovated apartments but that 'little has changed'.

On Monday morning (January 29), Pakistani national Saadia Bokhari, who had been a resident of The Gardens for 21 years, found the notice stuck to her door. "I am in a bit of a depression right now," she said over the phone. "There's no pattern to the eviction letters distributed to tenants. Not everyone in the same building is getting the notice. We are also seeing new tenants coming in, which needs to be clarified.

"In the initial 10 years, I switched residences eight times, but after moving to The Gardens, this place became my 'home'," said Saadia, who came to the UAE in 1993 and lived in other parts of Dubai for the first 10 years. "The serenity here is unparalleled. It's as if I know every tree in the community. During 2008-09, when the area was neglected, fellow tenants and I took it upon ourselves to water the plants and maintain cleanliness. Seeing the flourishing state of this place now fills us with pride."

Since her move to Dubai in 2018, Bhairavi Mehta has lived in The Gardens. "It has become our own. We were relaxed, thinking Nakheel was renovating only 2-bedroom homes, but suddenly, they started giving notices for three bedrooms as well. This is very disheartening as The Gardens is the most beautiful community in Dubai, according to me.

Bhairavi Mehta
Bhairavi Mehta

"My children, aged 17 and 11, attend Winchester School and commute by cycling. I used to accompany them when they were younger. The Gardens have been integral to my children's growth, offering spaces for friendship and sports."

Despite their profound attachment, the Indian expat and her family have come to terms with the circumstances and decided to relocate.

Bhairavi said, "We are searching for a place closer to a metro station and school, but most important, it should be like my heaven - 'The Gardens'."

A tenant in The Gardens for 10 years, Sonal B Chhibber, received the notice in December 2023 and has reluctantly started hunting for a new place. "It wasn't by choice, but I'm navigating the situation as best as I can," said the Indian expat.

Sonal B Chhibber
Sonal B Chhibber

"Living in The Gardens has been a delightful experience for me. The community is serene, and the greenery adds to the overall tranquillity. The amenities and surroundings make it a wonderful place to call home. Additionally, the proximity of my son's school, my husband's workplace, and my own employment in the vicinity further enhance the convenience and appeal of our residential choice. I've been in the UAE for 17 years and I am proud to call this place home," the 44-year-old continued.

Sonal said, "Receiving the eviction letter has brought mixed emotions. The prospect of leaving a community I've been a part of for a decade is disheartening. A sense of attachment and nostalgia makes it challenging to envision a departure. It's not just a physical space; it's about the memories, the connections, and the familiarity that has grown over the years. While the future is uncertain, the emotional impact is significant, and I anticipate a period of adjustment wherever the next chapter takes me."

Residents like Sonal are also evaluating the potential financial implications of relocating to a different residence. For a considerable number, this entails additional transportation expenses, possible changes in schooling for children, and the emotional burden of leaving a place they called home. "It's a complex situation that involves both practical and emotional considerations," Sonal summed up.

What the law says

Nakheel has given residents 12 months advance notice to vacate. According to the law (26 of 2007), landlords may demand eviction of tenants in the following cases:

a. If development requirements in the Emirate require demolition and reconstruction of the property.

b. If the property requires renovation or comprehensive maintenance, which cannot be executed while the tenant occupies the property.

c. If the landlord wishes to demolish the property for reconstruction or to add new constructions that prevent the tenant from benefiting from the leased property.

d. If the landlord wishes to recover the property for use by him personally or by his next of kin of first degree.

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