House and Home in Turkey

House and Home in Turkey

 

Is Housing and Home Easy in Turkey?

Housing in Turkey is relatively easy, readily available and easily affordable. Even some luxury properties can be found rather cheaply compared to most of other countries.

Please note that if you occupy an important position in a major company in Turkey, your employer may provide you with a place to live. This is relatively rare, however, so you will probably end up looking for a place to rent.

Rental properties are plentiful throughout Turkish cities, but are less common in rural areas. Those rentals that are available in rural areas are rarely in very good condition.

Knowing what to expect from the Turkish market will help you find a suitable place to live.

How is the Housing Market in Turkey?

You will probably find the market overwhelming at first. Turkish apartments vary in size and quality, sometimes seemingly without rhyme or reason. In general, you will find newer apartments toward the outer edges of cities and older ones toward the middle.

When looking at older apartments, don´t expect conveniences like elevators. Similarly, don´t be surprised to find major safety issues when visiting some rental properties. It is not uncommon for electrical outlets to spark, or for gas heaters to sit in rooms with poor ventilation.

Take the word “furnished” with a grain of salt when you see it in an ad. “Furnished” could mean nothing more than that an apartment has sinks and bathroom fittings. When visiting “unfurnished” apartments, don´t expect anything: not bed-frames, cabinets, curtains, sinks – in many cases even toilets.

If you need to purchase a lot of furniture or fittings, try negotiating with your landlord to have the cost deducted from your rent. Many landlords will be receptive to such arrangements, it´s a convenient way of renovating their property!

Also, relationships with landlords and neighbours will probably be different than you are used to at home. Turkish neighbours think little of dropping in to see what you are doing, which may be pleasant or amusing at first but gradually grow irritating. Unmarried women in particular should not be surprised to find a regular stream of neighbours dropping by to check up on them.

If you are single and have a habit of bringing strangers home with you, rest assured that your neighbours will be talking about it. Some landlords may disapprove of this behaviour so much that they pull you aside to discuss it. This kind of attitude is becoming less and less common in major cities, but in rural areas some landlords are still known to refuse rentals to unmarried couples.

Whether looking for a rental, dealing with your landlord or meeting your Turkish neighbours, remember that patience, understanding, and good humour will get you through most issues with only a minimal amount of pain.

How to Find an Apartment (Flat) in Turkey?

If your employer does not provide you with a flat it will be up to you to find one yourself. Fortunately, there are a variety of resources at your disposal.

If you´re feeling a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of navigating the Turkish rental market, start off with listings in English-language newspapers like the Turkish Daily News or the New Anatolian. If you can read Turkish, the property magazine Emlak Pazarı also advertises rentals.

Once your nerves are settled you should venture into the streets and check out neighborhoods in person. Properties available to rent will be marked with signs reading Kıralık Daire (Apartment for Rent). Doing some searching in person is beneficial for several reasons. First, it gives you an idea or areas in your town or city where rentals are most available. Second, it helps you orient properties in relation to local landmarks and each other.

While rental properties you find in person will often list a phone number, don´t call unless you are fluent in Turkish. It´s fairly unlikely that whoever answers will speak your native language, so have a Turkish friend call and explain the situation for you.

If you are looking for a room in a shared apartment, you may find vacancies posted in hostels and language schools in addition to the other sources.

How Real Estate Agencies work in Turkey?

Real estate agents (emlakçi) have offices in the neighbourhoods where they represent properties. Do not expect Turkish real estate agents to provide the comprehensive service that you may remember from your home country.

In Turkey, real estate agents function primarily as intermediaries. They will index rental properties in their listings and then take you to see them, but they will not provide you with all the property´s details.

Be happy if you can get the correct square metreage and the monthly rent out of your agent.

For this reason, you will probably visit several properties before you find one that you like (you will learn flats´ details as you see them). Once you have found your rental, you will pay your real estate agent a commission equal to one month´s rent.

Is Renting House or Flat Outside Major Cities Difficult in Turkey?

If renting in the city sounds like a haphazard process, take a trip out to the country for a whole new perspective. Rental properties are uncommon in the countryside and small towns, and there are few resources available for finding the few that do exist.

Instead, you will have to rely on word of mouth (and your Turkish language skills). If you don´t speak Turkish, don´t even think about looking for a place without having a Turkish friend on hand for help. Even once you do find something, there is a good chance that it will be in an extreme state of disrepair.

Renting in a less-populated area does have its advantages, however. Rents are astoundingly low (75 Turkish lira a month is a common figure, compared to 500 in a major city). Many rural landlords also think of foreigners as responsible tenants, even if they might hesitate to rent to unmarried couples.

Finally, you are much less likely to be cheated in the country than the city, even though rural rentals are arranged relatively informally – often through oral agreements.

Student Residencies and other Options of Housing in Turkey

Foreign students studying at Turkish universities will often find themselves looking for rental properties like any other foreigner. Students do have the option of living in dormitories at their universities, however.

There are major advantages for students living in dormitories. The most obvious is cost. A room can cost as little as 45 Turkish lira a month. Both single and shared rooms are available, and most dormitories (though not individual rooms) have kitchens where students can cook their own meals. Affordable cafeterias are available and open late so that students can eat even if they don´t feel like cooking.

Dormitories are great places for students to meet other young people, both Turkish and international, and they will certainly offer foreigners better chances of making friends than most rented apartments.

The disadvantages to dormitory living are primarily the close proximity of the living conditions and shared bathroom facilities. In addition, most Turkish dormitories are segregated by sex. This may strike foreign university students as strange or unnecessary.

Certain universities might offer additional accommodation, such as subsidized shared apartment living, but you should consider these exceptions and not the rule.

Students that would prefer not to live in university housing are left with the same options as anyone else looking for accommodation in Turkey.

Rental Agreements in Turkey

Once you find a place you like, make sure that you and your landlord agree on a rental contract. This should be prepared in writing (preferably in both your native languages) and signed by both of you.

The most important thing that the contract should specify is the rent, and, equally importantly, the currency in which you will pay the rent. For many years, landlords preferred rent in foreign currency (it was more stable than the Turkish lira). Now they are more willing to accept lira from foreign tenants. If you do pay your rent in foreign currency, be aware that your landlord may try to raise the rent on you if the lira´s value drops sharply. Having an exact amount specified in the rental contract gives you negotiating leverage.

You should try and have the length of your lease included in the contract, though some landlords may not see this as necessary. If your landlord does not specify a particular lease length, assume that you will have to renew after a year.

Landlords do pay all taxes on rentals except for environmental tax (çevre temizlik vergisi), which tenants pay with their water bills.

Landlords have some exceptional rights in Turkey: if a landlord or his family want to move into his property, for example, he is allowed to evict his tenants without notice. Landlords are also allowed to evict tenants if they miss two months´ rent. If the landlord sells the rental property while you are living there, the new owner is also entitled to evict you (though he must give notice first).

Disputes with Landlord in Turkey

While Turkish law does, in theory, allow you to take your landlord to court over disputes, don´t even consider it unless you feel that you have been grievously, obscenely, gratuitously wronged. These lawsuits proceed at a glacial pace. The law also claims that landlords are responsible for keeping rental properties in safe condition, while tenants are obligated not to cause damage. There are few practical resources available to enforce this provision, however.

All this means that you should take special care when renting. If your landlord seems strange or strikes you as unpleasant, look for another property rather than take a risk. You might miss out on what looks like a dream apartment, but in doing so you could very well steer clear of a rental nightmare.

A note on contracts in rural areas

Contracts in rural areas are often much less formal. Many landlords consider an oral agreement just as valid as a written contract. Try your best to get them to agree to a written contract.

If this is impossible, make sure that you discuss the rental arrangements in detail, discussing everything you would find in a written contract: rent payments, rent currency, lease length and any special stipulations. Have a Turkish friend translate for you if your Turkish is weak. Country rentals often require a deposit of as much as seven months´ worth of rent, but since the monthly rent is so cheap the deposit will usually still be less than a security deposit on a flat in the city.

In rural areas you will probably find even fewer legal resources than even the limited number available in the cities, so it is important to be clear on all elements of your rental agreement.

Utilities: Gas, electricity, and water in Turkey

Setting up and paying for your utilities is fairly convenient in Turkey. Just make sure to have all the required documents readily available.

Your utility situation will vary depending on the rental and landlord. Some landlords arrange for utility service themselves, while others leave the responsibility to their tenants. In rare cases, your landlord may agree to pay utility bills himself and then pass the costs to you in your rent.

Make sure you know the arrangement before you move into your rental. If there is no arrangement, you will have to arrange for utility service yourself.

Electricity in Turkey

Electricity in Turkey is supplied by TEDAŞ, a government monopoly. When you sign up for electrical service you will have to choose an amount of electricity (in watts). It is better to purchase more than you think you will need. In general, 12-15 kilowatts should be more than sufficient for most rental properties.

Remember that TEDAŞ is merciless about cutting off electricity when customers use more than their allotment or are late with bill payments. Plan carefully and pay on time.

Unintentional power interruptions are also fairly common throughout Turkey, so you should get a universal power supply (UPS) and surge protectors to keep your electrical appliances from being damaged by power surges.

Turkish outlets operate at 220 volts.

Gas in Turkey

If your rental is located in Istanbul or Ankara you will have access to gas providers İGDAŞ and EGO. Almost anywhere else, you will have to buy bottled gas from local distributors.

In large developments or apartment complexes, owners may supply the entire complex from bottled gas that they purchase and feed into a localized pipe system. If this is the case, you will pay them for the gas instead of the utility company and your bill will be determined based on a meter reading.

Water in Turkey

All municipalities provide water to their residents, and this process is managed by a national company called ISKI. Tap water is drinkable – it is filtered and chlorinated.

Since water shortages are common in Turkey (especially in crowded tourist areas), your property may come equipped with its own water tank (depo), which can be filled from bottles or a tanker.

If you are renting a house in a rural or suburban area, it will probably treat waste water in a septic tank. If you are unfortunate enough to have rented a property with a failing septic tank (all septic tanks have limited lifespans) you will need permission from the municipality to replace it.

Paying Bills in Turkey

You can pay utility bills at offices, in banks, or with automatic payments from your bank account. Automatic payments are the most convenient option, and arranging them is as easy as visiting your bank with a copy of a bill from each company.

Never make a bill payment to anyone who comes to your door claiming to be a utility solicitor or agent. Utility bills are never paid this way, and regardless of what he says, the visitor is a fraud.

Care-taking/Housekeeping Services

It’s cheap and easy to find housekeeping or maid services for your household in Turkey. If you want maid service, consider hiring a maid full-time rather than part time. In the long run, full-time service is often a better value.

Maids in Turkey are paid by the day (not by the hour), so if you decide to take someone on a full-time basis it’s better to negotiate a monthly salary. Take referrals from friends or neighbours, and make sure to screen them yourself. If you do put an ad in a newspaper or online classifieds, make sure that you thoroughly check out the person who will be entering your home on a daily basis.

What are my Right as a Tenant in Turkey?

In many ways renting out a property in Turkey is fairly easy compared to other countries. There are well established tenancy laws:

  • Laws are generally pro-tenant
    • It can take 1 to 1½ years to evict a tenant if they choose not to agree and have abided by the terms of the tenancy
    • A tenant is not obliged to move out at the end of a fixed term lease. They must be notified at least 15 days before the lease expires or it automatically extends for another 12 months