A property transaction in Calıs, Fethiye has left both Turkish and foreigners feeling they have been totally ‘ripped off’ but where does the responsibility lie?

A property transaction in ơlış, Fethiye has left both Turkish and foreigners feeling they have been totally ‘ripped off’ but where does the responsibility lie?

Linda and Carl sit nervously on one of their few remaining pieces of furniture. Carl occupies his shaking hands by making macram笠‘We’re frightened to go out,’ says Linda. ‘What might we find when we get back?’

The own three properties in a small gated development but they no longer have access to two of them. Like many foreigners in this area they bought these properties both as an investment and to enjoy for holidays before finally retiring to live in Turkey.

{mosimage}Earlier this year they decided to sell these properties and find another home better suited to their requirements. Oktay Günay, a businessman with connections in Germany and Antalya, expressed an interest in buying all three houses with a view to establishing a call centre. ‘It all seemed very plausible,’ says Carl. His American accent, softened after a decade in the UK.

‘Our solicitors drafted contracts for the sale,’ confirms Linda ‘although Günay did not wish to pay a deposit I spoke with his fianc裠in Germany who convinced us that his intentions were honourable and as soon as the finance came through from a German bank he would pay the full price.

To show his commitment he suggested carrying out some refurbishment to the properties, including a swimming pool, for which he would pay.’ He also suggested that rather than his renting another property or staying in a hotel he and his fianc石hould move into one of the empty houses.

‘By using a lawyer we felt that we had done all we could to protect our interests’ Carl says despairingly and ‘while they we not happy to give him the keys to the property we use, we were comfortable to hand over the keys to the other two.’ Their lawyer agreed terms and contracts were signed and exchanged. They returned to the UK and looked forward to completion.

‘When we returned to Calış it was a terrible shock everything– clothes as well as furniture – had gone, leaving us with nothing at all.’ Says an angry Linda. Furthermore, he had emptied and rented out the other two properties, taking money and a formal IOU in lieu of rent. The tenants, a Turkish man and his British partner together with her two teenage daughters and their own 17 month daughter had furnished their accommodation using hire purchase and furniture from Carl and Linda’s house.

They insist that they have a valid rental contract and that the sales contract signed by Gunay, Linda and Carl gave Gunay the right to let. They cannot afford to leave and indeed, see no reason why they should.

Enter Safi (who refused be photographed); white linen suited, gold and jewelled rings sparkling. He is a tough business man, who doesn’t like to be messed around. He had bought the tenants’ IOU from Gunay and speaks on their behalf. He contests that Carl and Linda should help the family financially if they want them out of the property. ‘We feel frightened and threatened by these people’ says Carl.

{mosimage}Are they all victims of their own naivety or is it a lack of clarity in Turkish Conveyancing Legislation? Carl and Linda did everything they thought was correct by Turkish Law. With hindsight they can see that they, like the others, were duped but why didn’t their lawyer advise them better? Cihat, Bernie and her daughters thought that they were getting a bona fide rental agreement. They are now in debt. Gunay has disappeared owing thousands. The workers employed by Gunay have not been paid. The lawyers have benefitted but have not protected their clients’ interests.

The term Caveat Venditor ‘let the Vendor Beware’ seems appropriate. Is it really the case that a contract for sale once exchanged, regardless of financial exchange means that the purchaser has right to access – let alone to dispose of what they find inside?

Any contract in Turkey should be notarised but this one was not. Whose responsibility is it to explain to the parties that this is essential?  Either the contract document itself must be formally regulated by the Turkish Law Society to prevent this happening again or the lawyers themselves must collaborate to make the selling and purchase of property in Turkey less prone to these unfortunate turns of event.

Bernie’s partner says with a sigh…’you know everything was so much better in this part of Turkey before the big money came here!’ Maybe he’s right.

Jane Tuna