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May 29, 2012, Tuesday

Unpaid site management fees -- collection process in Turkey

“Dear Berk, I follow your column quite a lot when I am in Turkey and sometimes when I am in the UK. I was looking for some advice if you could assist me. My sister and I own a house in Antalya.

 I became unemployed in the UK about 18 months ago due to health issues. Therefore I have fallen behind with the aidat [maintenance] charges, and currently owe approximately 500 pounds. My sister appears to have relinquished any responsibility for paying these charges, leaving it to me to sort this out. The site manager has been very unsympathetic to my case and says if the money is not paid by the end of this month, the owners’ committee will take me to court and they can seize the house and sell it! Surely they cannot do this for 500 pounds. I am sure he is just trying to frighten me. The house is worth about 50,000 pounds. I would like to hear your expert opinion on this, Berk.”

You do have to pay the charges on time and the following should not encourage you to delay it. I think the management wanted to scare you and make you understand the severity of the matter. I don’t think that your site manager could sell your property, although they are entitled to do so under Turkish law.

According to the Turkish Enforcement Law, property seizure is a lengthy process. First, a payment order has to be served to the debtor. Upon service, the debtor can end the process by paying the debt. You have seven days (starting from the delivery of the payment order) to challenge this payment order or your silence will be deemed as acceptance. In other words, if you receive a payment order and do not object to it in seven days, the execution office shall accept the claim of the other party without any further examination. The other party will be deemed the “creditor” and you the “debtor” until the end of the process.

You should apply to the legal body (official collection office) stated in the payment order. Please bring along the original copy or at least a copy of the payment order with you. I strongly recommend you make the objection with the assistance of a lawyer. If you do it yourself, please make sure that you clearly state what you are objecting to, though you don’t have to state the reasons for your objection. The collection (recovery) process will then be paused. There will be a one-year pause period during which time the creditor can start a lawsuit to cancel your challenge request. If they do not do so within the year, the process will end after the one-year pause period.

If you have already missed the seven day period, you are obliged to submit a list of your assets (within the limit of the outstanding amount). The deadline is 10 days starting from the delivery of the payment order (not seven days plus another 10 days). There may be serious consequences if you fail to do so. When you are declaring your assets, you can simply declare the household that would be responsible for the 500 pounds.

If the debtor fails to challenge the payment order, seizure proceedings will be carried out. According to the Turkish Enforcement Law, properties can be seized even for a small amount of debts if the debtor does not pay his debts. If the creditor is aiming to seize and sell the property, it will take some time. There will be some correspondence between the Enforcement Office and the Land Registry Office. Your property will also be appraised, and you can contest the report if the value is not in line with your expectation. It can take an estimated four months to complete the procedure. The outstanding debt can be paid before or during the process and this will stop the sales process.

What happens if you were abroad when the payment order was delivered? Is there an extension? The law provides an extension for the debtor to make an objection in cases such as having a serious health problem at the time of the payment order delivery, being overseas, etc. but you should consult a lawyer about this.

NOTE: Berk Çektir is a licensed attorney at law and available to answer questions on the legal aspects of living in Turkey. Please kindly send inquiries to [email protected] If a sender’s letter is published, names may be disclosed unless otherwise expressly stated by the sender.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided here is intended to give basic legal information. You should get legal assistance from a licensed attorney at law while conducting legal transactions and not rely solely on the information in this column.

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