Currently in Abu Dhabi and in large parts of Dubai the Owners Associations are not run by the owners. They are run by the Developers. This has created such amazing stories as the developer selling property on the basis of a private beach, then making it public and charging, of them stopping Airbnb type arrangements except through the developer, of forcing owners to use the developer’s real estate companies, and charging huge fees for minor alterations. The list is long. But in commemoration of Earth Day let us focus on the planet.
If the developer is the Owners’ Association (OA) then they collect the service charges from the owners to pay the bills. They are often not owners themselves so they are not incentivized to manage costs. They might out of good husbandry conduct proper RFP processes for vendors, set sensible thermostat numbers, recle etc, or they may not. But the biggest thing is they don’t have skin in the game when it comes to property resale value.
Low service charges improve property resale value. Low utilities costs improve property resale value. So let us take an example of differing approaches here – solar panels. Let us say you’re in a small group of villas and the idea of solar panels to reduce electricity cost is brought up.
If we say the OA is the developer, then what is in it for them? There is a big hassle costing, installing maintaining them etc and for what value? Zero. Any electricity cost savings and improvement in sale prices are passed to the owners, the developer gets nothing. Then let us see from the owners side. Same pain and hassle to install them but they receive the benefit. Lower utility costs in the units and presumably some saving on service charges. All this and the value of their units will go up.
A huge amount can be done to save water and electricity, and even if you aren’t minded to save the planet everyone wants to save money – have the value of their property increase.
Until in the UAE we align the cost savings these improvements will bring with the OAs themselves they won’t be implemented. The UAE needs all OAs to be made up of unit owners themselves, if we do that and we should see the number of sustainability initiatives shoot up.
Things empowered OAs might implement:
- Energy-efficient upgrades: appliances, lighting, and HVAC systems to reduce energy consumption and lower utility bills.
- Water-saving measures: low-flow toilets, showerheads, and faucets to conserve water and reduce water bills.
- Submetering: submeters to measure the usage of water, gas, and electricity in each unit or building, which can incentivize residents to conserve resources and lower overall utility costs.
- Renewable energy sources: invest in solar panels, wind turbines, or other renewable energy sources to generate electricity and reduce reliance on traditional power sources.
- Smart home technology: smart thermostats, lighting controls, and other devices to optimize energy usage and reduce utility bills.
- Education and communication: educate residents about energy-saving practices and encourage them to adopt habits that can lower utility bills, such as turning off lights and electronics when not in use, using cold water for laundry, and adjusting thermostats to conserve energy.