Dozens of families who invested in beachside apartments have won a £3million battle against the builder and developer
More than 50 British families have won a five-year court battle in Turkey to recoup millions of pounds they ploughed into a holiday property complex.
The victory has been described as a landmark victory in Turkey as for the first time, the landowner and builder were successfully pursued through the courts by foreign-based claimants.
A total of 57 families invested just over £3million in total for apartments at the Golden Beach Complex in Didim, on Turkey’s Aegean Coast. Coming from all over Britain, they ranged from elderly couples to young families. But after the builder encountered financial difficulties, and the investors failed to get their property title deeds, they formed a class action as they feared they could lose their properties and investments.
London-based Turkish lawyer Burcu Orhan-Holmgren pursued landowner Ahmet Akyel and builder Didim Design Group through the Turkish courts to get investors’ money refunded, or their title deeds issued.
Following appeals to Turkey’s highest court, the Supreme Court, judges ruled the families be handed back their money plus five years back interest on those investments. Once the High Court confirms its decision as absolute, the group’s solicitors will begin bailiff action for the Golden Beach Complex land to be auctioned off so the British investors can recoup their investments, or the landowner makes a payment offer to avoid this.
Mrs Orhan-Holmgren, founder of London Legal International, which specialises in Turkish law, said: “My clients are delighted and very relieved that after a determined and dogged struggle, the Turkish court system has upheld their claims and ruled in their favour.
“My clients bought their properties in 2008 and 2009, but few have ever been able to enjoy their apartments because they didn’t have their title deeds and weren’t allowed to access the site.
“The complex was never fully complete, so no one moved in but a lot of my clients had furnished their apartments with the intention they would use them as holiday homes.
“But during the litigation process, there were allegations of the apartments being broken into and the furniture being taken away. Criminal complaints were made, but as the British owners were not full legal owners, the matter came to nothing.
“They were simply put off from ever enjoying a holiday in Turkey.”
Mrs Orhan-Holmgren (left) said at the heart of the case was a contractual agreement made between the landowner and the builder. Under normal circumstances in Turkey, the builder agrees to build on the land and, by way of payment for the land, hands over a percentage of properties to the landowner to sell on for their gain. In this case, the landowner claimed the contract was of this type, so he declined any responsibility towards the British families.
However, Mrs Orhan-Holmgren said the builder had effectively entered into a joint agreement with the landowner to ‘project build and sale’. She said: “That has been our argument from day one: the landowner was not simply going to get apartments, he was a partner in the project with the builder even though this wasn’t clear in the carefully worded contract between the builder and landowner.
“The High Court held the landowner jointly responsible and equal to that of the developer, even though the investors’ contracts were with the developer. As the builder had nothing to offer to our clients, the onus lay on the landowner to refund my clients.”
She added: “Lawyers in Turkey say this is a landmark case as for the first time, the courts are saying that in law, the landowner is equally responsible as the builder.”
After the decision, one investor, Paula Hesson, from Manchester, said: “I’m delighted the court ruled in our favour. We’re just hoping now we get our money back so we can move on from this.”
Another investor, Sharon Dawkins, of West Sussex, added: “We are incredibly relieved the courts upheld the decision and grateful Mrs Holmgren kept fighting when many would have given up.”
Secil Can, a lawyer for Mr Akyel, said: “We are happy to transfer the title deeds to the British investors, but the court ruled the group’s monies have to be returned. We aren’t happy with this and plan on appealing.”