Turkey’s inflation woes pit tenants against landlords

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Istanbul (AFP) – Evicted in the middle of a harsh Turkish winter, Erdem Yilmaz, 30, calculated that he had spent two and a half months’ salary to urgently move to a new house in Istanbul.

The father of a two-year-old is not the only Turk in this situation after last year’s currency crisis.

Disputes between landlords and tenants have risen sharply in recent months in Turkey after annual inflation hit nearly 50% in January, the highest since April 2002 and could well peak again on Thursday when new monthly data comes out. .

In the same period, rents have exploded by 85% in Istanbul and by 69% nationally, according to an analysis by the University of Bahcesehir.

But wages have not risen at the same pace, with most rising 30-50% on average in January.

“We shouldn’t have left,” lamented Yilmaz, who works as a receptionist, upset by his former landlord who claimed he wanted the property back for his son.

“He harassed us. My family had no peace,” he added.

Yilmaz is even angrier because he said the landlord’s son didn’t move into the apartment.

“I saw an ad (for the apartment) on the internet a week after we left,” he said, showing a photo of the ad.

The rent is now 2,600 Turkish liras ($190, around 170 euros), compared to 1,100 liras ($80) paid by Yilmaz.

Litigation on the rise

To add insult to injury, Yilmaz’s new house will cost him 2,000 lire ($146), half his salary, and is located in “a remote corner, in an old building that is difficult to heat and without elevator,” he said.

Yilmaz’s dispute has not gone to court, but disputes between tenants and landlords are now the biggest issue handled by Turkish courts.

They represent 20% of cases, against 10% a year ago, according to the financial daily Dunya.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s unorthodox policies, as well as the weakening of the lira are contributing to inflation.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s unorthodox policies, along with the weakening lira, are contributing to inflation Adem ALTAN AFP/File

Central banks normally raise rates to keep inflation under control, but Erdogan vehemently opposes high interest rates, saying they are “the mother and father of all evil” and cause a sharp inflation.

The Turkish lira lost 44% of its value against the dollar last year.

AFP spoke to 12 tenants who described being forced out of their apartments in the same way as Yilmaz, or who faced rent increases of more than 100%, five times the legal limit in Turkey .

Turkish law states that under a tenant contract renewed in February, a landlord cannot increase the monthly rent above 22.6%, a figure calculated using basic inflation.

The law also limits evictions, but tenants said they gave in to pushy or threatening landlords.

In January, a 90-year-old Istanbul man was filmed by a neighbor using an ax to kick down his tenants’ door after they refused to pay their rent, which suddenly rose from 1,200 to 4,000 lira .

“The rise in rents is pushing landlords to seek the recovery of their homes to put them back on the market” at significantly higher prices, according to lawyer Hanife Emine Kara, a specialist in real estate law who has seen the number of cases rise. .

“Illegal and opportunistic”

Landlords demanding triple-digit rent increases say official inflation data does not reflect reality, a claim backed by some independent Turkish economists who say inflation hit more than 110% in January.

“We live in a time when owning a house or renting cheap accommodation is a luxury,” said Mehmet Bulent Deniz, president of the Turkish Federation of Consumer Unions.

The Turkish lira lost 44% of its value against the dollar last year
The Turkish lira lost 44% of its value against the dollar last year Adem ALTAN AFP/File

However, some owners try to strike a balance.

“We have agreed to 35% increases. There has to be a middle ground,” said Hakan Yildiz, owner of three properties in Istanbul.

Some tenants, like Emrullah Comran, refuse to accept, on principle.

In January, the owner of Comran wanted to increase his rent by 58%.

“I am in a good financial situation, I could have paid but I refused because they did it illegally and opportunistically,” said the 30-year-old, who runs a small metalworking business in Antalya, in southern Turkey.

“We have 12 employees and we have given them a 45% raise on average this year. But no one has received a 58% raise. No one,” he insisted.

In response to his landlord, Comran wired his rent with an increase he set himself.

“The official rate is 22.6%, so I went a bit higher, at 23%,” he said.

“I haven’t heard from them yet.”

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