May 2010 saw the issue of the much awaited 'Jointly Owned Property Directions', which took effect from 13 April 2010. Known as the 'Strata Law Directions', they define the rights, responsibilities and obligations of all parties to jointly owned property including sub-divided land or buildings and properties within master planned communities (the framework for which is in Dubai's "Strata Law" 27 of 2007). There are four main directions which cover: (i) Jointly Owned Property Declarations, a new disclosure regime for developers; (ii) Association Constitution, the establishment of Owners' Associations to operate and manage common areas; (iii) General Regulation including consumer rights provisions, financial obligations for Owners' Association's and developers and an enforcement regime; and (iv) Preparation of Survey Plans, qualification requirements, duties and standards required for registration as a surveyor. There is also a fifth Direction for Surveyors, a comprehensive document aimed at standardising the way in which property should be measured and plans prepared in Dubai.
Despite some initial problems, the Strata Law requirements should help to provide a clearer enforceable position in Dubai for jointly owned property rights and the effective management and control of communal estates. However, the effect of these Strata Directions is extensive and developers and owners alike should be aware of their obligations and potential implications of failure to comply, including unenforceable sale contracts and financial penalties. Specialist advice should also be taken and careful drafting of Jointly Owned Property Declarations, building and facilities management agreements, supply agreements and establishing Owners' Associations will help to avoid disputes in the future.