BERK ÇEKTİR

New law to transform buildings due to earthquake risk

Some readers really amaze me. It is indeed good to receive an e-mail questioning why I did not write the second part of an earlier column on earthquakes and buildings.

A while ago, I wrote about a new law that would require the modification of buildings so that they are earthquake resistant. If this new legislation is enacted, many cities in Turkey, especially İstanbul, will change dramatically. Under this new code, 50 percent of buildings in Turkey will be retrofitted while at-risk areas will be restructured in order to create a safer living environment. The minister of environment and urban planning has also indicated that all unsafe structures will be demolished.

I will provide more details about this new law for those who are interested.

The procedure to decide which buildings will be demolished and how is still ambiguous, but it needs to be clarified to such a level that even an old pensioner would be able to easily understand it. Everyone has the right to live in a tidy and spacious city. But, how will this period of transformation be managed? There are thousands of buildings that need to be destroyed and many areas that need to be restructured, but there are also millions of residents in these areas. It seems many problems will occur in this transformation period.

There is an important detail in the new law. The decision to demolish the building will be based solely on the report of a commission working with the government and will not require the consent of building owners. This indicates that the project has considerable political risks. However, the government seems to be willing to take that chance. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stated that the government will ensure that dangerous structures are torn down even if it means a defeat in the polls. Previous governments allowed for unplanned urbanization simply because of political interests, but the prime minister’s statement indicates that the government will stay firm on this matter. Therefore, the new law will deeply influence city life. This massive project will require the cooperation of many government agencies. First, the areas that are at greater risk will be determined, and Cabinet will have to approve the areas. Governors will manage the process of rehabilitation, and the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) and municipalities will carry out the demolition work.

Many citizens have asked the question: How much time will we have to leave after a decision is made to demolish our apartments? After the decision, a document will be sent to the building owners, who will then have four months to leave. A month-long extension will be granted if necessary.

After the demolition, building owners will be shareholders of the land. Shareholders will decide what will be built on the land, but if they are unable to decide, the government will decide how to use the land and it may be expropriated. If needed, this land will be transformed into green space.

This is a great and a risky project, so it is inevitable that many arguments will emerge. However, it contains the necessary provisions for a country located in an earthquake zone. I am hoping that this project will be completed without causing suffering to citizens and will result in the establishment of durable, well-ordered residential areas.

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.

2012-07-11