Turkey remains a highly popular market, yet our inbox is dominated by questions about Turkish title deeds (or TAPU). In an effort to clear up some of the confusion, we address the typical issues...
What is TAPU?
TAPU is the official document that shows property ownership – the title deed. It contains the owner's full name and photo (not always necessary), and details of the property. The TAPU must be sealed with an official stamp in the central bottom area, and the section needs to be signed by a TAPU official. Photographs of the owners, if any, must be affixed to the top right of the TAPU. Photographs must be stamped and signed by a TAPU official.
How do you authenticate a TAPU?
If the TAPU is a photocopy, ensure it has been notarised by a notary public. This is vital to ensure the TAPU is legitimate. To check the legitimacy of the names on the TAPU, ask to see the seller's ID card and check this against the document. Check with a civil engineering office to ensure that the coordinates of the property, as listed on the TAPU, are correct. You can also ask the TAPU official to make an annotation on the document to prohibit any unsolicited ownership transactions. This means the property cannot be sold or transferred to third parties.
How long does it take to get hold of TAPU and how does this process work?
Currently the process takes around 8 weeks from purchase contract - but this is due to change in 2012. The first step in the process is purchase clearance, which is also known in Turkey as military clearance. This is not a clearance of the buyer as such but for the land and/or property. In Turkish law land/property located within a 'military zone' should not be sold to a foreign national. In reality, military zones are clearly marked and classified, therefore chances of military clearance failing is almost zero. There is also a small fee (roughly £500) attached to the process. Once military clearance is out, then title deed (TAPU) can be registered on to the buyer's name. In most cases, sellers will expect the bulk of the sales price before they transfer title.
Buyers should appoint an independent Turkish solicitor to act on their behalf throughout the process, military application, TAPU transfer etc. Some sellers, especially larger developers, advise buyers that they can assist and conclude these matters on their behalf however all the checks that need to be done to verify validity and legality of TAPU are best done independently of sellers/agents.
What are the potential problems with TAPU?
It may come with a charge (debt)
This may not be readily apparent when TAPU is reviewed by a non-expert. However unless the charge is fully discharged, it will not be possible to pass clear title to the new owner.
It doesn't match the purchase
TAPU may not show the full contents of the land and/or property being bought. In other words, what the buyer thinks he is buying may not necessarily be what he is being transferred legally on TAPU. This usually happens in semi-rural areas or areas very close to seafront. Some agents will check this as part of their own due diligence, but an independent solicitor should also conduct necessary checks.
It doesn't match the seller
The person selling the property may not be the named individual on TAPU. This is a simple identity check.
It takes so long
As per the above, it can up to 8 weeks to obtain military clearance. In most cases the buyer has parted with signifi cant sums of money prior to TAPU as part of purchase contract so there is a risk attached. Although a notarized contract minimizes the risks involved, it is by no means a full protection for if the seller goes bankrupt and/or a charge is placed on the TAPU in the intermediate period, then the buyer will have to resort to courts for enforcement. This is costly and time consuming. Thus when a large sum changes hands prior to TAPU, we suggest placing an IPOTEK (priority charge) on the TAPU to safeguard funds paid prior to obtaining TAPU.
With thanks to Cameron Deggin of Place Overseas for providing this advice.