In the dynamic legal landscape in Turkey, the year 2023 brought forth a cascade of pivotal changes and regulatory updates, shaping the realms of real estate, criminal law, and environmental regulations. As we stand at the precipice of 2024, this overview delves into the intricacies of these legal transformations, from the nuanced amendments in real estate laws, the seismic shift in criminal law brought about by the Constitutional Court’s decision, to the meticulous regulations introduced for crypto assets and environmental protection. This comprehensive exploration illuminates the significant legal tapestry that has unfolded throughout the course of 2023, impacting various facets of Turkish jurisprudence.

Let’s delve into the legal landscape in Turkey for the 2023 period.

#Real Estate Laws: 

The Ministry of Environment and Urbanization has amended several laws related to real estate transactions, leases, and management in Turkey. Some of the key changes include: extending the validity period of real estate leases from one year to three years; establishing new rules for terminating real estate leases before their expiry date and providing new grounds for terminating real estate leases due to force majeure events and introducing new provisions for protecting tenants’ rights during lease periods. 

In addition to these, introducing new provisions for regulating real estate management companies; introducing new provisions for imposing penalties for violating real estate laws; introducing new provisions for facilitating real estate dispute resolution through arbitration centers and finally new regulations on short-term rentals for tourism purposes (the Turkish Airbnb Law, in other words) were also such major changes that the experts in the real estate sector, PoAs, and solicitors have been focused on. 

Furthermore, specifically one of the regulation extensions, in regard of Turkish Code of Obligations No. 6098 with the Law on the Amendment of the Turkish Code of Obligations and the Attorneyship Law has a great impact on legal processes that the 25% limit on rent increase has been amplified for one more year in Turkey. 

The 25% limit on rent increase was introduced by that Amendment Law  dated June 8, 2022, that was approved by the Turkish Grand National Assembly and came into effect on June 11, 2022 after it was published in the Official Gazette on the same date.

 The law aims to protect tenants from excessive rent hikes and inflation, which have reached record levels in Turkey due to the economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has been over for almost half of a year however the law regarding the below changes continues to impact landlord-tenant relations for a longer term:

  • The law sets a maximum limit of 25% for the annual rent increase based on the change in averages of the consumer price index (CPI) in twelve months. However, this limit does not apply if the CPI is below -0.5% or above +5%, in which case the rent increase is determined by other factors such as supply and demand, quality of housing, location of property, etc. 
  • The law also requires landlords to inform tenants in writing about any changes in their rental obligations at least one month before they take effect. Tenants have the right to reject any illegal or unreasonable rent increase and continue to pay their current rent until a new agreement is reached or until their lease expires.
  • If a landlord fails to comply with the law or violates any terms of a lease agreement, tenants can take legal action against them through courts or arbitration centers. Tenants can also seek assistance from local authorities or NGOs that provide legal aid and representation for renters’ rights.

Last but not least, another prominent development was “The Regulation on Real Estate Sales Contracts Issued by Notaries”. Below is a summary of the change:

  • The change refers to a regulation that was published in the Official Gazette on January 11, 2023, and entered into force on the same date. The regulation authorizes public notaries to execute real estate sales contracts in Turkey, which was previously prohibited by law.
  • The regulation aims to finalize the sale of real estate property transactions in a faster and easier manner and sets out the procedures and principles applicable to the real estate sales contracts to be executed by public notaries.

At the end of the year 2023, The Turkish Parliament approved the new regulation at the Law on the Transformation of Disaster-Prone Areas and Some Laws, including Decree Law No. 375, the regulations are publicly known as “New Reserve Zones/Areas” Law.

 Within the scope of those regulations, the definition and scope of the reserve building area has been expanded and the way has been paved for parcels located in residential areas to be designated as reserve building areas. This law aims to accelerate and facilitate the improvement, liquidation and renovation projects necessary to create healthy and safe living environments in areas under disaster risk.

#Additional Motor Vehicle Tax Law

In July 2023 motor vehicle owners in Turkey were confronted with a double tax imposition, with a new regulation due to the financing need arising from the earthquakes centered in Kahramanmaraş in February 2023. 

The summary of this law is as follows: 

  • This law entered into force on July 15, 2023, and regulates the levy of additional motor vehicle tax up to the amount of motor vehicle tax accrued in 2023.
  • Within the scope of this law, vehicles registered and registered in the relevant registry on July 15, 2023, and vehicles that will be registered and registered for the first time in the relevant registries between this date and December 31, 2023, are subject to additional motor vehicle tax, for one time only.
  • For this law, the taxpayers of the additional motor vehicles tax are those who are motor vehicles taxpayers as of the date of publication of this law and real and legal persons who are the owners of the vehicles registered and registered for the first time in the relevant registries from the date of publication of this law until December 31, 2023. Under this law, the additional motor vehicle tax is deemed to have been accrued and notified by the tax office of the place where the registration and registration of the vehicles is made.

#Criminal Law 

A landmark development occurred on June 1, 2023, as the Constitutional Court annulled a provision permitting the suspension of judgment in criminal cases with sentences of up to two years’ imprisonment or a judicial fine. Within Alfa Law’s analyses, we addressed this as a pivotal event, titled ‘The Decision Annulling the Provision Governing the Suspension of the Pronouncement of Judgment,’ marking a significant stride in Turkish criminal law in 2023.

  • The change refers to a decision made by the Constitutional Court of Turkey on June 1, 2023, which annulled a provision that allowed for suspending the pronouncement of the judgment in criminal cases involving up to two years imprisonment or a judicial fine.
  • The provision was added by Article 23 of Law no. 5560 to Article 231 of Law no. 5271, which regulates the criminal procedure code. The provision enabled the accused person to consent to postpone the verdict until his/her future conviction and also allowed for challenging such decisions through courts or arbitration centers.
  • The Constitutional Court found that the provision was unconstitutional because it violated several fundamental rights and freedoms, such as the right to an effective remedy, the right to a fair trial, and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The Court also found that suspending the pronouncement of judgment did not provide adequate protection for victims, impunity for perpetrators, or respect for individual dignity.
  • The Court declared that it would enter into force one year after its publication in the Official Gazette. Therefore, as of June 1, 2024, suspending the pronouncement of judgment is no longer applicable in Turkey.

The provision enabled the accused person to consent to postpone the verdict until his/her future conviction and also allowed for challenging such decisions through courts or arbitration centers.

#Environmental Law

The Turkish government has implemented a series of regulations aimed at safeguarding the environment and human health against the adverse impact of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and specific hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (EEE).

These include the Regulation on the Management of WEEE, which entered force on 1 February 2023, abolishes the previous control regulation and establishes a framework for producer responsibility, extended producer responsibility, collection, reuse, recycling, and disposal of WEEE; and the Regulation on the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment, which sets limits on the amount and type of hazardous substances that can be used in EEE. These regulations aim to reduce the environmental impact of EEE production and consumption, promote eco-design and circular economy principles, and ensure compliance with international standards such as REACH.

To Sum up Legal Landscape in Turkey…

In conclusion, the legal landscape in Turkey witnessed remarkable transformations in 2023, reshaping the realms of real estate, criminal law, and environmental regulations. As these changes unfold, individuals and businesses navigating this dynamic terrain seek guidance and expertise. Alfa Law Firm, with its team of experienced attorneys in Turkey, stands ready to assist. Our English-speaking lawyers offer comprehensive services, from the power of seeking a reliable law firm in Turkey, Alfa Law Firm is your trusted partner. Step into 2024 with confidence, knowing that you have a steadfast legal ally by your side.