Zoning peace has become a hot topic in Turkey given that many citizens do not have proprietorship certificates for their homes which lead to problems when trying to connect to water, electricity and natural gas services. A new law on procedures and principles of issuing building registration certificates for residential and non-residential buildings came into effect and was published in the Official Gazette on June 6, 2018.

Zoning peace is the process for which building registration certificates ("Certificate" or "Certificates") will be issued for buildings which were built without licenses and which lack proprietorship certificates. Although the Certificates will not be equivalent to proprietorship certificates, citizens who acquire a Certificate will be able to connect to water, electricity and natural gas services.

The Certificate will be issued for buildings built before December 31, 2017. Applications can be made up until October 31, 2018 and the registration fee must be paid by December 31,2018. It is at the discretion of the Council of Ministers to extend the application and registration fee deadline by up to one year. Applications for the Certificate can be made electronically through e-Devlet (the "e- Government Gateway" which provides access to various public services electronically from a single point) as well as by submitting the relevant forms to the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization ("Ministry") through the institutions authorized by the Ministry in person. Only one Certificate will be issued for each building. The registration fee will be calculated based on the land's property tax value and the approximate building costs.

The Certificate can be used as follows:

(i) to temporarily subscribe to water, electricity and natural gas services,

(ii) to revoke demolishment decisions and outstanding administrative fines,

(iii) to complete deficient work of the certificated sections of buildings under constructions as the Certificate can also be issued for the completed sections of buildings under construction,

(iv) to conduct basic repair and alteration works.

Business licenses shall be granted to buildings with the Certificate without requiring an occupancy permit.

If the buildings for which the Certificates are issued are on public premises, such premises would be transferred to the Ministry which would then, upon request of the Certificate holder, sell the premises to the holder based on market value.

The Certificate may not be issued for (i) areas indicated under the Bosporus Law No. 2960 as within the Bosporus coast line and preview area, (ii) areas indicated in the same law as within the Istanbul Historical Peninsula, (iii) the historical area defined under the Law No. 6546 on Establishment of Directorate of Canakkale Wars Gelibolu Historical Area, (iv) premises subject to the private property of third parties, and (v) public premises which are designated for social purposes and allocated to relevant institutions accordingly. If the Ministry determines the Certificate is issued for the buildings at the foregoing areas, the Certificate would be cancelled and the rights assigned by the Certificate would be divested. The registration fee would not be refunded and a criminal complaint would be filed against the applicant.

According to Article 9 of the new law on zoning peace, which regulates the validity period for the Certificate, the Certificate will be valid until the building is reconstructed or urban transformation begins. The same Article also indicates that the earthquake resistance of the building is the property owner's responsibility.

Officials from the Ministry emphasize that the new regulation is not a zoning amnesty but instead a zoning peace. Ministry officials have further indicated that the zoning peace does not legalize illegally acquired land and buildings built without licenses. Officials also stated that the new laws do not allow people to reconstruct illegally acquired buildings.[1]This also appears to be the case based on the section of the new law which states the Certificate will be only valid until the building is reconstructed. Generally, officials explained zoning peace as an effort to allow people who have been living in their homes for many years without proprietorship certificates to obtain a legal document enabling them to receive necessary utilities and make necessary renovations to their homes in a legal manner.

The new regulation attracted wide interest from the general public. According to figures announced by the Ministry in July 2018, more than 2.5 million applications have already been made. Certificates have been issued for more than a 130,000 buildings and more than 650 million Turkish lira have been collected as registration fees.[2]

While the zoning peace appears to have been positively received by a large portion of the general public, there have been certain criticisms directed at the new regulation. Some warn that although the regulation is presented as zoning peace, it is in fact a way for unregistered buildings to be legalized. Moreover, others point out the risk associated with the section of the regulation which states the earthquake resistance of properties will be the property owner's responsibility. Zoning peace is also criticized by some for enabling buildings to be registered which have not been supervised or inspected by the state and may not be earthquake resistant or compliant with safety standards.[3]

The long term impact of the new law on zoning peace and the criticism directed at it will prove itself in time. Meanwhile, those who own unregistered buildings may apply for the Certificate up until October 31, 2018, and the registration fee must be paid by December 31, 2018.

[2] http://imarbarisi.csb.gov.tr/bakan-kurum-imar-barisi- son-verileri-acikladi-haber-229095

[3] https://www.sozcu.com.tr/2018/ekonomi/anayasaya- aykiri-imar-barisi-sutlucede-coktu-2545414/

This article was first published in Legal Insights Quarterly by ELIG Gürkaynak Attorneys-at-Law in September 2018. A link to the full Legal Insight Quarterly may be found here.

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