I've rented... let's see... six different apartment flats in Turkey. The whole experience, for me, has been rather hassle-free, but I've heard some stories from people who have had less that great experiences. I'll tell you those, too.
If you live in an area populated with lots of expats, you'll find advertisements for flats for rent in various places where expats will normally go. The prices will likely be higher there. Also just about any waiter, taxi driver, or gardener will help you find one, but often this is for a commission on the side, and he or she may try to stay in the middle of things. Don't rule it out, but in my opinion, if the waiter was a good source for finding real estate, he wouldn't be a waiter.
Online Resources: I normally either search at these online sites to find an apartment. Look for the listings for "emlak" (real estate), and "kiralik" (for rent):
www.sahibinden.com (sahibinden means "from the owner," but you'll also see real estate companies advertising there as well. Look for "Emlak" (real estate) and "Konut" (Residence)
www.hurriyetemlak.com: Look for "Konut" (Residence). It has English listings.
www.milliyetemlak.com: This one has English listings also.
Local Newspapers: You can also have a friend look at the local paper when the new property listings come out, and have them call for you. This way you'll get the "Turkish price," since these publications are not directed towards expats, but Turks, and since the price is already advertised, they're less likely to raise the price. You already know what they'll accept. You can find translations of the Turkish words used on Mynet elsewhere in the real estate forums.
Real Estate Companies: Another way I've rented is by using an "emlak," or Turkish real estate company. They charge a month's rent for their commission, which you'll have to pay them (not the owner), but it can be worth the money if they find you a great place. I found one fantastic apartment that I would otherwise never have seen without going through an emlak. It was worth the commission.
Shopping and Meeting the Landlord: Typically I'll find about ten or fifteen places I want to see, then print the listings so I have something handy to walk around with, and to write notes on. I also take a digital camera with me, so after a day of apartment hunting, I can sit down at a cafe and refresh my memory about which apartment is which.
After inspecting the place, the landlord will normally want to meet you in person. There is something about Turks, they like to meet a person and talk face-to-face before going into any business relationship, perhaps to size you up and get to know you.
The Rental Contract: Apartment flats are rented here on a standard rental form. It has the particulars of the property, the terms of the contract, particulars about the buyer and seller, and a listing of property that comes along with the flat. The landlord may want to attach stipulations to the contract. For example, the previous landlord I dealt with wanted me to sign a paper saying that I promised to vacate the place after the contract. I was planning to move after that anyway, so I had no problem with it. Turks don't move around much, and may spend a good portion of their life in the same apartment.
It can be a real problem for landlords to evict tenants in Turkey, since the courts tend to favor the tenants. One friend of mine who fell on hard times was evicted only after six months of not making any rent payments whatsoever. Even though he was in complete breech of the contract, it was still difficult for the landlord to evict him. The stipulation I signed was, I assume, extra insurance that I would actually leave when I said I would.
The rental form is in four pages (one piece of paper folded in half for a total of four sides). On the last page is a payment record. Every time you make a rent payment, the landlord signs it saying he has received payment. It's a very concise and handy contract, as far as I've seen, they are uniform throughout the country. If you want to pay by bank transfer, you need only to keep the receipt of the transfer as proof of payment.
Just to give you an idea of what a Turkish rental contract looks like, I've uploaded all four pages.
Precautions When Renting: I would highly recommend recording, on paper, any damages which exist when you move in, marks on walls, cracks in cupboards, whatever may be. Some of the negative stories I've heard involved landlords who would do whatever was necessary to keep as much of the deposit that they could, and blaming the tenant for pre-existing damage. So write it down, and have the landlord sign it.
Don't Expect Much to Be Provided: One curious thing about Turkish renters. When they leave, they take everything. So if you rent an apartment, expect to see wires hanging out of a ceiling receptical where the light used to be. You'll probably have to buy your own light fixtures. You may even find water heaters and other things missing that you would think should come with the apartment. The previous renters probably installed these fixtures, then took them when they left, to install in the next apartment.
Landlords I've dealt with seem to be completely "hands off" with the apartments the rented me. I was expected to fix everything myself, however if it was part of the apartment as rented, such as a toilet or sink, the cost of the repair can be deducted from the rent if the landlord refuses to fix it himself.
Deposits: Deposits are often asked for in foreign currency, while the rent is paid in Turkish Lira. Because of past fluctuation in the value of the Turkish Lira, inflation, and because tenants may stay in an apartment for several years, Landlords will want a more stable foreign currency.
The Kapici: The kapici is a man who typically lives on the first floor of larger apartment complexes, with his family. He gets that living space as part of his compensation for being the kapici. The kapici's duties are to take care of the building in general, including the grounds, cleaning the stairwells, picking up the trash, stoking the furnace in the cold months, etc. Kapicis will also often get bread and a newspaper for you in the morning, make general repairs in your apartment, even pay your bills for you. If your place has a kapici, then you'll definitely have a monthly maintenance cost in addition to your rent, called "aydat." This covers the payment of the kapici. But it's also customary to tip your kapici during certain Turkish holidays.
Monthly Maintenance Fees, or "Aydat": You may be charged an additional monthly fee besides your rent, called "aydat." This covers the maintenance and upkeep of the building and grounds, and as mentioned in the last paragraph, the salary of the kapici. Many smaller places have no aydat whatsoever, or kapici, but still, somebody has to clean the steps in the stairway and make sure the building and grounds are maintained. In this case, the tenants will typically get together and equally contribute for expenses.
Renewing your contract: Under Turkish law, if you let the contract renew for the next year, you're responsible for payments for all that year. This is entirely unrealistic, since you may find that your circumstances dictate moving just a few months into the new contract. I've talked to a lawyer about this, who told me that the courts really don't interpret the law that way. According to the lawyer I spoke with, the courts will likely only find you liable for rent payments for a reasonable time until the apartment flat can be rented again. In any case, give your landlord as much notice as you can, at least 30 days, in writing. This is not legal advice, you should speak to a lawyer yourself if you have any problems.
Excessive Deposit Requested: If the landlord asks for two months deposit or an otherwise unreasonable deposit, WALK AWAY. The reason they are asking for such an excessive deposit is because they don't intend to repay it when you leave. And they will find ANY reason to not repay it. This happened to me once and I should have noticed this red flag. For the most part Turkish landlords are okay, but if they are asking an excessive deposit, it's because they know you won't bother going through the court system to get it back. Don't rent from them.
Renting An Apartment Flat In Turkey
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