Evictions in Residential and Rooftop Commercial Leases
The rapid increase in rental prices since 2021 has led to a rise in disputes between property owners and tenants. It is often observed that property owners evict their current tenants to re-rent the property at a higher rate. However, housing is one of the most basic needs for individuals, and therefore, lawmakers have specially regulated residential and rooftop commercial lease agreements and provided many protections in favor of tenants. This article will explain the reasons for a tenant’s eviction and the rights and protections available to tenants in residential and rooftop commercial leases.
RENTAL AGREEMENT AND TERMINATION
A rental agreement is a contract in which the lessor entrusts the lessee with the use or utilization of a property, with the lessee agreeing to pay the rent specified by the parties in return. The Turkish Code of Obligations numbered 6098 (“the Code”) regulates special provisions regarding “Rental Agreements” in the Fourth Section and “Residential and Covered Business Premises Rentals” in the Second Subdivision of this section.
Residential premises are immovable properties that can meet the housing-based needs of the lessee and are used for the purpose of settlement, although not necessarily continuously. Covered business premises, on the other hand, are enclosed structures where commercial and economic activities related to a profession are carried out for the purpose of practicing that profession. A fundamental requirement for a premises to be subject to the provisions regarding covered business premises rentals is that the upper part of the structure is covered and enclosed.
The Code divides the termination of rental agreements for residential and covered business premises into two main categories: Notification and litigation.
TERMINATING A RENTAL AGREEMENT THROUGH NOTICE
Terminating a rental agreement through notice is a right that the tenant can exercise at any time, provided that the notice periods are adhered to. However, the tenant cannot exercise this right and terminate the agreement through notice unless ten years have passed since the establishment of the rental agreement. The application of termination through notice will be subject to different provisions depending on whether the rental agreement is for a definite or indefinite period.
If the rental agreement is for a definite period, the tenant can terminate the agreement without providing any reason by giving written notice at least fifteen days before the end of the specified period. If this notice is not given, the contract will be deemed renewed under the same terms for another year. However, giving notice at least fifteen days in advance is not sufficient to terminate the agreement; it is also a requirement that this notice reaches the lessor at least fifteen days before the end date of the rental agreement. As a general rule, the lessor does not have the right to terminate the agreement based on the expiration of the contract period. The only exception to this rule is if the rental agreement between the parties has been extended for ten years. If, at the end of the ten-year extension period, the lessor provides written notice to the tenant at least three months before the end of the extension period, and this notice reaches the tenant at least three months before the end of the extension period, the lessor can terminate the rental agreement without providing any reason.
If the rental agreement is indefinite, the tenant can terminate the agreement without providing any reason at any time, following the legal termination period and legal termination notice dates. The lessor’s right to terminate the agreement by following the relevant termination periods is only possible after ten years from the start date of the rental agreement. The legal termination period is the end of a six-month rental period, and the legal termination notice period is three months. For example, if a rental agreement for an indefinite period started on 01.10.2021, the tenant can terminate it after 01.04.2022 by giving written notice no later than 01.01.2022. However, the lessor can only exercise this right if the contract is still in effect as of 01.10.2031.
When the tenant or the lessor terminates the rental agreement through notice after the ten-year extension period, the tenant’s tenancy status will automatically end, and they must vacate the property without further action. However, if the tenant does not vacate the rented property, the lessor can evict the tenant through legal proceedings. In this case, the lessor can:
a. File a lawsuit against the tenant for eviction in the Peace Civil Court in accordance with Article 4/1(a) of the Code of Civil Procedure,
b. File a lawsuit against the tenant in the Court of First Instance for the prevention of unlawful occupation and a claim for rent in accordance with Articles 683 and 995 of the Turkish Civil Code.
TERMINATING A RENTAL AGREEMENT THROUGH LITIGATION
The circumstances under which residential and covered business premises rentals can be terminated through litigation are limited and the Code has prohibited any changes to these provisions that would be detrimental to the tenant. The Code has categorized these circumstances into two main headings: reasons originating from the lessor and reasons originating from the tenant.
TERMINATION CASES ARISING FROM THE LESSOR
Termination cases arising from the lessor are divided into three categories: The lessor’s need, reconstruction or redevelopment of the leased property, and the need of the new owner.
An eviction lawsuit based on the lessor’s need is a lawsuit filed when the lessor, the lessor’s spouse, descendants, ascendants, or individuals legally obliged to be taken care of by the lessor have a genuine need for the residential or business premises. If there is a definite-term contract, the lessor can file this lawsuit within one month from the end of the specified term. If there is an indefinite-term contract, the lessor can initiate this lawsuit within the legal termination notice period, determined according to the legal termination period. However, it is important to note that the lessor’s need must be sincere and compelling, and this need must be continuous, not temporary.
For example, if the leased property is closer to the lessor’s workplace, the tenant cannot be evicted. However, if a person with children needs a larger residence than the one they currently occupy, this need is considered valid, and the lessor can legally evict the tenant through a lawsuit. Similarly, if the tenant has an adult child who wishes to reside in the leased property, eviction through legal proceedings is possible. When evaluating the eviction request, the court investigates the sincerity and necessity of the need and makes a decision accordingly. Another important point to consider is that if the tenant is evicted due to the lessor’s need, the lessor cannot rent the same property to another person for three years. Otherwise, the lessor is obligated to pay compensation to the evicted tenant, which shall not be less than the annual rent for the last year.
An eviction lawsuit for the purpose of reconstruction or redevelopment of the leased property can be initiated by the lessor if the residential or covered business premises need to be reconstructed, redeveloped, substantially repaired, expanded, or altered, and the use of this property becomes impossible during these construction activities. If there is a definite-term contract, the lessor can file this lawsuit within one month from the end of the specified term. If there is an indefinite-term contract, the lessor can initiate this lawsuit within the legal termination notice period, determined according to the legal termination period. When the tenant is evicted due to the reconstruction or redevelopment of the leased property, the lessor cannot rent the same property to another person for three years. Otherwise, the lessor is obligated to pay compensation to the evicted tenant, which shall not be less than the annual rent for the last year.
An eviction lawsuit due to the need of the new owner or the new owner’s close relatives can be filed against the tenant while the lease agreement between the tenant and the lessor is still in force if the residential or covered business premises, subject to the agreement, are sold to a third party. In this case, the new owner or their close relatives, including themselves, their spouse, descendants, ascendants, or individuals legally obliged to be taken care of by the new owner, can initiate the eviction lawsuit based on their genuine and compelling need. In this type of eviction lawsuit, the necessity must also be sincere and compelling; otherwise, the court will not issue an eviction order. As a general rule, the tenant has the right to continue using the leased property during the term of the lease agreement, even if ownership of the property changes hands.
To obtain an eviction order as a result of this lawsuit, the new owner must notify the tenant of their need within one month after acquiring ownership. Otherwise, the right to file an eviction lawsuit will be forfeited. After this notification, the new owner can initiate the eviction lawsuit six months after the date of ownership acquisition. When the tenant is evicted due to the need of the new owner or their close relatives, the lessor cannot rent the same property to another person for three years. Otherwise, the lessor is obligated to pay compensation to the evicted tenant, which shall not be less than the annual rent for the last year.
TERMINATION CASES ARISING FROM THE TENANT
Termination cases arising from the tenant are categorized into three types: commitment to vacate, the presence of two valid notices, and the tenant or their spouse having another residence within the same district or municipal boundaries.
A commitment to vacate is when the tenant undertakes in writing to vacate the leased property on a specified date. If the tenant has made a written commitment but fails to vacate the property on the specified date, the lessor can initiate enforcement proceedings or file a lawsuit to enforce the tenant’s eviction within one month from that date. However, for the commitment made by the tenant to be accepted by the court, certain conditions must be met. The commitment must be in writing, it should specify the date of vacating, and it should be made after the execution of the lease agreement and the delivery of the leased property. If these conditions are met, and despite the existence of a valid commitment made willingly by the tenant, the tenant does not vacate the property on the specified date, the lessor can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant.
Two valid notices refer to the situation where the lessor provides two written and valid notices to the tenant within the rental period for leases shorter than one year or within one year or more for leases longer than one year. In this case, the lessor, for leases with a rental period of one year or longer, or exceeding one year, can file a lawsuit against the tenant to evict them from the residential or commercial property within one month from the end of the rental year in which the notices were given. The written and valid notices should be sent after the rental payment becomes due and should clearly specify the amount of the unpaid rent. If the lessor directly applies to enforcement to collect the unpaid rent, the enforcement order issued in this regard will also be considered a valid notice.
If the tenant or their spouse has another residence within the municipal boundaries of the district or town where the leased property is located, and this residence is suitable for habitation, and the lessor was unaware of the existence of this residence when entering into the lease agreement, the lessor can file a lawsuit to evict the tenant within one month from the date the lease agreement terminates. To obtain an eviction order as a result of this lawsuit, several conditions must be met. First, the other residence must belong to the tenant or their cohabiting spouse and must be located within the municipal boundaries of the same district or town. Second, the lessor should not have been aware of the existence of this residence at the time the lease agreement was concluded. Third, the lessor must file the eviction lawsuit within one month from the date the lease agreement terminates. This reason for eviction is applicable only to residential leases and does not apply to covered business premises leases.
- The Turkish Civil Code No. 6098 provides extensive protection to tenants with provisions aimed at safeguarding the weaker party in the rental agreement, the tenant, and grants various rights to tenants accordingly.
- Rental agreements for residential and covered business premises can be terminated in two ways: through notice or through litigation. The tenant can terminate the rental agreement through notice without providing any reason, as explained above. However, the lessor can only exercise the right to terminate through notice after ten years from the start date of the rental agreement. Therefore, if the lessor wants to evict the tenant before the ten-year period has elapsed, they will need to file a lawsuit. This way, it prevents the lessor from causing hardship to the tenant and from the tenant terminating the agreement without providing any reason, as long as the tenant pays the rent on time and maintains the leased property properly.
- Eviction of the tenant through litigation is only possible for reasons specified in the Law. The lessor can initiate litigation for reasons such as their sincere, long-term, and genuine need or that of their close relatives, required urban planning and construction works that obstruct the tenant’s occupancy, the tenant’s prior written commitment to vacate on a specified date, the sending of two valid notices at different times due to non-payment of rent, or the tenant or their cohabiting spouse having another residence within the boundaries of the same district or municipality as the leased property, all within the periods specified in the Law. However, in all these cases, the lessor must have valid reasons, and the concrete existence of these reasons will be examined. The Law aims to prevent the lessor from using their rights arbitrarily.
- In some cases, the lessor may also sell the leased property to a third party. In such a case, as a rule, the terms of the lease agreement between the tenant and the lessor will continue to apply to the tenant and the new owner. However, if the new owner or their close relatives have a sincere, long-term, and genuine need, the new owner can also file a lawsuit to evict the tenant.
- The lessor must initiate the eviction lawsuit for the reasons mentioned above within the specified periods in the Law, or they will lose the right to file a lawsuit.
- The Law has been prepared with consideration for the importance of housing needs and allows tenants to be evicted for only a limited number of reasons. It is crucial for tenants to be aware of their rights and to defend themselves against unjust demands from lessors.