In Turkey, you can only call yourself the owner of a property if you have a TAPU, a Turkish title deed. TAPU is a somewhat magical concept with different interpretations.
What is a TAPU?
If you buy a house in Turkey, you won't get a copy of the purchase contract as in the UK. You get a TAPU instead, a 'Title Deed' in English. A TAPU is an extract from the Turkish real estate registry. This property registry, also known as TAPU office, is comparable to the Land Register in the UK. On the TAPU you will find in short the following information: location, a photograph of the owner, type of TAPU, data of the property and archiving data.
There are red and blue TAPU's.
A red TAPU is for a common hold (Condominiumin the US). You get a red TAPU if you buyan apartment in an apartment complex or a house in a project.
A blue TAPU can have different legal meanings:
A blue TAPU is not a common hold.
Most foreigners who buy a house in Turkey will receive a red TAPU.
There are 2 types of red TAPU's. The first red TAPU is of the type 'Kat İrtifakı'.
This type indicates that you legally own the land and the unfinished building.
You receive the second red TAPU at the end of the buying process when you sign the contract at the TAPU office. This TAPU is of the type 'Kat Mülkiyeti' and indicates that you are the legal owner of the land and the finished building.
Obtaining a TAPU of type 'Kat Mülkiyeti' is a lengthy process with pitfalls and obstacles. Foreigners should hire an independent lawyer to guide them through the buying process.
The TAPU is a snapshot and may be outdated. So rely never solely on the information on a TAPU but always check the data in the Land Register.
Although the TAPU is no more than an extract from the Land Register, it still has great symbolic value. With a TAPU, you can really call yourself the owner of your home.
The role of the TAPU in the buying process.
In Turkey, you cannot sign a legal sales contract in the presence of a Turkish Civil-law notary. This is only possible in the presence of an official of the TAPU office. Prior to the official sale at the TAPU office you can sign a “promise-to-sell” contract in the presence of a notary. You should always record the actual purchase price in this “promise-to-sell” contract and register the contract at the Land Registry. This contract has a legal status. In case of problems, you can enforce the sale through the courts.
If a foreigner buys a house in Turkey; it is usually an apartment in a complex or a house in a project or residential park. The contractor or developer is obliged to register the apartment complex or project as a commonhold. The commonhold document is drawn up on the basis of plans and zoning. The complex is divided into independent units, and for each unit, a TAPU is issued. This TAPU is of type'Kat İrtifakı'. It is the title deed of the land and the unfinished building!
It is important that the data on the commonhold document is correct. TAPU officials are required to use this data in the preparation of the contract and the TAPU. If the information is wrong, you are in trouble.
After the completion of the building process, the municipality will inspect the construction to make sure that it is built according to the building license and the approved construction plans. If everything is ok, the developer receives a general 'Iskan', a document which legalizes the construction. If the general 'Iskan' is issued, the house owners can apply for an individual Iskan, a habitation license. This habitation license is required to connect the property to the public utilities. If you do not have an Iskan, water and light will be considerably more expensive. If you want to sell a house without a habitation license, you need to reduce the price drastically.
An individual Iskan is strangely enough not a prerequisite to obtain a Tapu. So you can own a property without a habitation license.
Finalizing the sale at the TAPU office
You don't need a notary or an functionary of the municipality to buy a property in the UK. You just have to sign the purchase contract and pay the vendor. Buyer and vendor both receive a copy of the contract. In Turkey, the property is transferred in the presence of an official of the TAPU office. After signing the purchase contract in the TAPU office, you are the legitimate owner of the property. You don't get a copy of the purchase contract but a TAPU of the type 'Kat Mülkiyeti'. This second and final TAPU gives you the lawful ownership of the land and the finished building.
Translation and meaning of the terms on the red TAPU.
The red TAPU consists of 3 parts :
A. Main Real Estate Section. Location Details of the apartment building or project.
B. Independent Unit Section
C. Archiving data, stamp and signature of the TAPU official.