A “typical” day in Turkey?

Here was how our day went down on Friday, June 5, 2009, a day to go down in our little history of infamy.

We were three days away from moving…

A textile exporter that my wife does translations for was in a flurry of last-minute negotiations with a French importer who wanted to place an unusually large order with her. The Frenchman speaks English but the Turkish exporter does not. my wife was in the middle and had to deal with a rather large number of email and SMS messages as well as several phone calls. On a normal day, these transactions have a way of stressing her out if they get too weird and business type complicated, and; this was not turning out to be a normal day…

The day before, we learned that our rental house we had not yet moved into had suddenly acquired a new owner under weird and suspicious circumstances. The old owner emailed and called us to tell us that she sold the house but that the new owner ripped her off but would not tell us how or why and she was so distraught that my wife had to spend half an hour on the phone calming her down. The old owner said she transferred our six months rent paid in advance to the new owner and that a village water pipe on the property which had broken a few days earlier, was going to be fixed by the new owner and that she did not think we would have a problem.

My wife then called the new owner and in her first phone call he seemed very nice and reasonable and reassured my wife that it would be “no problem” with us taking over the place but danced around the mention in that phone call about writing a new rental contract. He also asked my wife how much money we paid the previous owner and for how long a rental period (the plot thickened at that point).

The next day the new owner called and told us the village repair people were there waiting to fix the water pipe which had broken and that he wanted us to pay 1000 TL for the pipe. He said it would be a “loan” which he will repay (vaguely) perhaps in extending our contract. He said he had to pay all of his money to the previous owner, that he then had no money and that he needed the money that day, immediately, or the village would not repair the water pipe. my wife told him she would get back to him, spoke with me and a friend who is an attorney and we both said, no! The attorney said that it was of course up to the village muhtar (a mayor of sorts) and/or the owner of the land to repair the pipe, not the renters.

Meanwhile, in the midst of all this, my wife got a call that her sister was in the hospital emergency room with a liver ailment. my wife called her daughter to tell her to go to the hospital to be with her aunt and my wife packed an overnight bag in case she had to stay depending upon what she found out upon arrival.

On her way to the hospital my wife sent an SMS to the new owner that she was on her way to the hospital, that we were not going to pay the money, and that it was his responsibility to fix the pipe. A bit later he called my wife back and said that if she did not send the money by 5:00 pm that day, he had other people who wanted to rent the house and he would rent it to them instead of us.

So I called the previous owner who, although sympathetic, said she could do nothing more. She said she only had a verbal agreement, nothing in writing about us, the rental money nor the broken pipe, and that the new owner had agreed to honor our rental and fix the pipe. She claimed she spoke all of this in front of a translator because she is English and the new owner is Turkish. So, at her suggestion, I called the translator, who claimed that there was nothing in the conversation that she translated for the two of them in which they spoke of us or the broken pipe. Ay yi yi…

Sometime in the middle of the phone call from my wife’s sister, I got an email from my department head telling me that Human Resources at the University informed him that I can turn in a resignation paper now taking effect on the 31st of August, BUT, that I have to come back to Istanbul to “final exit” on or around August 31. This means that they will then check that I haven’t got any library books or walked off with anything else that I should not. This gives them the opportunity to deduct any money owing from my final salary check, payable on September 1st. Which means that I will have to travel back from the south coast of Turkey to Istanbul at an inconvenient and costly time.

We went to the phone company early the same morning, before all this hell broke loose to cancel our phone and ADSL here and transfer it to the new place. FORTUNATELY the guy said that they would have to cut our phone and ADSL immediately which would mean no phone and internet for several days in Istanbul. He said we could just as easily do it down there when we arrived so, luckily, that is what we said we would do!! Strange how things like that happen huh?

June 21, 2009
My wife’s sister is much better and now out of the hospital and everything seems to be under control.

We received an updated email from the previous owner who said that on, Monday, June 8, she was going to the prosecutor’s office and see the muhtar about reversing this situation as she claims that she was cheated in the transaction in some manner and also plans to get the police and gendarme involved. Soooo, we shall see what we shall see.

Because of this debacle, we had to extend our stay (and rent) another month in Istanbul. We then made a trip to Fethiye on the 10th to see if we could clear up this mess. I called the previous owner but she firmly laid the blame on the “new” owner and again said she was going through the legal officials and all and that she does not have our deposit and advance rent and that it was the responsibility of the “new” owner to pay us or to honor the contract. I told her that she signed the contract with my wife and that she was responsible.

After that phone call we consulted with an attorney and decided to send her a legal notice to refund our deposit or we will take her to court for additional costs and legal fees. We have to wait one week plus two days for her to respond before we move further. We gave her until the first of July to pay up. If she still refuses to pay after we contact her next week when we return, we will then seek a court settlement. As in the US, we can demand she pay attorney fees, legal costs, our extra month’s rent because we had to stay in Istanbul and our costs for the extra trip to Fethiye to try to sort all this out.

It is interesting that after we sent the official registered letter through the notary (similar to a notice from the clerk of the court in the states) we got a call from the “new” owner, the night before we returned to Istanbul and he said that everything had been cleared up between him and the previous owner and that he was waiting for us to come move into the place. my wife told him in her penultimate nice way that we were no longer interested and that we were seeking our refund. End of that part of the story!

In the meantime we started to look for a new place to stay as neither of us any longer wanted this place as it seemed that both parties involved were maniacs.

July 01, 2009
We sent the following message to the previous owner:
We will return to Fethiye not later than Wednesday July 01. According to the phone call we received from the new owner, we learned that you had settled your differences. Our sincere congratulations. We now have hope that a refund of our deposit and rent is forthcoming.”

“The postal service has delivered our letter to you. Accordingly we ask that you please send a full refund of the 4,350 Turkish Lira we gave you as six months advance rent to be deposited not later than July 01 in our bank.

This is what we received in return:
“Do not believe a word (the new owner) says.

“He has now forged a senet (a form of IOU) for 308,000 TL with my signature which was for 8,00 TL for a car which never arrived. Evidentially he is famous for stealing cars, the police know about it but he is still out on the streets cheating the people.”

“I have to move from my rented home in Fethiye before the bailiffs come.
I have no possessions or money he has extracted all by deceit.
He has threated my life, tried to run me off the road, and made my life hell.
I am in a desperate state right now and have just found a lawyer from the British consulate to represent me we will approach the criminal court today.
I am sorry about your rental fees I am not in a position to deal with right now.
I am the victim of organized crime and have no idea how to get out of this hell.”

{sigh} The saga continues… We sincerely hope some of this is not true. In any case, I will post more here as things progress.

July 08, 2009
On Wednesday, 08 Jul we sent the following new message to the person who owes us a refund on our six months rent deposit:
Your problems with (the new owner) are difficult to deal with I am sure. However, we are also victims in this situation.

You were quite insistent in the beginning for six months rent in advance, it was difficult for us to come up with that amount of money on such short notice but we did so because my wife trusted you.

Regardless of the truth of your situation, your battle in that arena is not ours. We have been dragged into it and wish to bow out as painlessly and quickly as possible.

Note the letter (ihtarname) we sent you that you signed for from the notary. If we have to go to all the expense and aggravation of a court proceeding we are also going to ask for another thousand lira for the extra rent we had to pay in Istanbul, we will also ask for a thousand lira in unnecessary expenses incurred in a search for a different place to live in Fethiye and we will ask for attorney fees and court expenses. All of that plus the amount of time spent in courts and tying up whatever property or other resources you may have. We do NOT want to go
to that extreme, pay us the refund and our business with each other is finished.

Please email us or call so we can arrange a meeting to come to an agreeable and immediate solution.

AND this is the reply we received:
Yes sorry that you got caught up in the middle of all of this nightmare. I am just another statistic in the ongoing victimization of single women in Turkey.

The situation is serious whether you believe or not in fact it appeared yesterday in Sabah newspaper half page feature appealing to the European Court for Human Rights. We did find the article she is referring to in Turkish. Essentially it confirms what she says)

I am no longer in Turkey and have no assets there. I do not see an immediate solution to a refund of your funds.

July 16, 2009
I contacted the lawyer of the original owner of our not-to-be-rental and he confirmed that everything the original owner has told us is true. He claims she was ripped off and that the gendarme, the muhtar AND the local prosecutor would not do anything about the threats against her nor help her to settle her civil case against the guy who allegedly ripped her off.

He also said that if her case is favorably settled in the European Court of Human Rights, that he will help her with her civil case against the guy who allegedly ripped her off. He also said he was doing her case pro-bono because she has no assets and that the guy who ripped her off has a seizure order against her property in Turkey. She, by the way, is a dual citizen, Turkish and UK.

The original owner has now been accepted for a hearing before the European Court of Human Rights in this case. She publicized her situation on a website (in Turkish) which essentially says that she was the victim of a large scam and her house was taken from her in the deal by locals. It then says that when she sought assistance by the police and the local prosecutor she received no help and then was threatened with violence. She has now left Turkey until her ECHR hearing has been taken care of. We hope she wins in all regards and is able to get her property back, in which case, we may see our refund come back to us. A NOT typical day in our new “retired” life.

Postscript: We are now resigned to believing we will never see our refund. We have heard nothing further from the former owner…

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