It was an ideal opportunity for a great home. A run down house in central Fethiye – below me is the old town of Paspatur and in front are fantastic views of the harbour. Everything was close by, the shops, the nightlife and the sea.

But what seemed like the ideal renovation project has turned into a nightmare…

The House Renovation that Almost Sent Me to Prison

It was an ideal opportunity for a great home. A run down house in central Fethiye – below me is the old town of Paspatur and in front are fantastic views of the harbour. Everything was close by, the shops, the nightlife and the sea.

But what seemed like the ideal renovation project has turned into a nightmare.

Before the renovation

After I bought the property I set about planning for its renovation. Knowing little about the processes, rules and regulations I decided the best course of action was to secure professional advice. I took on the services of my friends’ Turkish partner who had recently set up in business as an architect. We discussed my ambitions for the property and plans were duly drawn up. The property didn’t have a pitched roof – just a flat area on top – so, I asked that the plans include a roof and space for a bedroom, bathroom and balcony within this. We agreed the whole job, contracts were duly signed and I went back to UK. The architect assured me that I didn’t need to be around as she would manage everything including all of the planning permissions with the local council.

After the renovation

It was when the building work was almost finished that my neighbour brought a complaint to the authorities, in Ankara, that the new roof on my house was 10cm too high! Because the complaint had been taken above the local level, my architect suggested that it would be better if I took responsibility and ‘just paid the fine’, as this would be better all round. It seemed plausible and as I had become very friendly with both her and her husband, I agreed. In the meantime we were forced to take down the roof and rebuild. Thinking this was an end to the matter, I was then surprised to receive a court summons and an invitation to the local police station. There I was photographed, finger printed, palm printed and my details were referred to Interpol! Worried that things were getting out of hand, I decided I needed legal help so I asked my architect to advise me. She suggested her lawyer friend and I took her on to fight my case.

I was the one facing court; I was the one facing the music…why? After all, this is surely why I had employed a professional adviser to help me. Surely, she, the one who had drawn up the plans and had supervised the project under contract, should have to take some if not all the responsibility? Alas no. The lawyer said it was now too late in the day to revert the blame back to the architect, and I was left to take care of myself in court.

I had to pay 3,000 YTL in fines and 1,500 YTL in lawyer fees but, I later learned, that I could have ended up in prison. In fact the neighbours’ lawyer had promised her that I would go to prison. How glad am I that that it didn’t come true. But the threat is still hanging over me – if I do anything wrong in the next 5 years, prison is where I’ll be going.

So I’ve been to court, investigated by the local police and Interpol, paid my fines and have the threat of prison hanging over me all for a roof that was 10cm to high. But what’s worse is that I took professional advice but they left me standing on my own when I needed them most. I’m now suing the architect for costs – but that won’t lift my court record or take away the stress I have suffered.

So what are the learning points:

  • Make sure your architect is registered with the local chamber of architects and carries professional indemnity insurance.

  • Check how long they have been practicing and take references. Mine was inexperienced and this was a large part of the problem.

  • Check out your neighbours. What are they like? Talk to them and tell them your plans and see what they think.

  • If your professional advisor suggests that you should take full responsibility because you will get more favourable treatment from the system than they will, REFUSE. This is why you are paying for professional advice.

  • Keep a copy of all the documentation you can, and notes of meetings, telephones calls and processes followed. If you never need them – great.

  • Think hard before working with ‘friends’, it may be harder to be objective and if things go wrong, and you’ll lose more than money.

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