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Turkey earthquake: Rents spike as survivors relocate west in search of safety

Landlords in Turkish cities have increased rents by up to 100 percent as survivors seek safety after devastating quakes
Buildings near the Gaziosmanpasa district in Istanbul, Turkey, 5 August 2019 (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Rents have skyrocketed across western and southern areas of Turkey as survivors from last week's earthquakes began relocating to what is considered safer parts of the country.

A Turkish ruling party official told Middle East Eye that at least 1.5 million citizens had left the earthquake-ravaged provinces of Hatay, Adiyaman, and Malatya after the 6 February twin quakes.

The death toll from the Turkey-Syria earthquakes is nearing 42,000, with Turkish authorities saying at least 36,187 people were killed in the country.

The 7.8 magnitude quake that struck near the southeastern city of Kahramanmaras also brought devastation to northwest Syria, the last pocket of sanctuary for the Syrian opposition.

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Tens of thousands of buildings were completely destroyed and others rendered uninhabitable, in what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described as "the disaster of the century".

Huseyin Orhan, a survivor from Gaziantep whose home was severely damaged, said he was trying to find a new home in the capital Ankara but rents were too high.

"The opportunists doubled the rental prices," he said. "We visited five different buildings and they all made astronomical increases."

Several estate agents have since confirmed that prices have spiked in relation to what they were just a few weeks ago, with Hakan Akcam, the chairman of an estate agent's chamber in Ankara, saying prices shot up by between 25-57 percent. 

A member of the country's main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), also confirmed that rental prices for apartments in the southern port city of Mersin had increased by up to 100 percent.

"The number of profiteers really skyrocketed in the city of Mersin," Ali Mahir Basarir said. "The places which go for 5,000 Turkish liras ($265) now are advertised as 10,000 ($530)."

'I just ask for mercy from the landlords'

Akcam, the estate agent, pressed the trade ministry to inspect the price hikes in western cities. 

Omer Cobaner, the chairman of Isparta Realtors Chamber, said the increases were limited to some individual house owners in Isparta.

"It isn't widespread, we could only talk about exceptions," he said. "We have detected 25 percent increases in rent ads and warned those people not to exploit the survivors."

Tulay Ser, a resident of Erzincan, said that there was a shortage of housing in the cities outside the disaster zone. "I have no demands or expectations from the state," she said. "I just ask for mercy from the landlords."

Cansel Turgut Yazıcı, general manager of Eva real estate, said that authorities should ensure that empty homes are rented out to earthquake survivors. 

Meanwhile, real estate law expert lawyer Bahri Godeoglu said no sanctions could be applied to the landlords who increase the rents according to the current legislation. 

He added that the regulations were protective of the landlord until a lease was signed by the parties. 

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