In residential and covered commercial lease agreements, early return of the rented property may occur due to reasons such as the tenant no longer needing or finding the property sufficient, financial changes, or the occurrence of an unexpected and different situation.
I. In Fixed-term Lease Agreements
Lease agreements can be either for a fixed term or an indefinite period. In cases where the lease agreement is for a fixed term, the tenant has the right to terminate the lease and vacate the rented property by giving notice to the landlord at least 15 days before the end date of the contract. If the tenant terminates the contract and vacates the rented property properly before the end of the lease, the landlord cannot claim any rental fees from the tenant.
II. In Indefinite-term Lease Agreements:
In indefinite-term lease agreements, the tenant can terminate the lease at any time, provided they give a minimum of three months’ notice before the end of a six-month period. The six-month periods are calculated based on the starting date of the lease agreement.
III. Continuing the Rental Debt for a Reasonable Period:
According to the Turkish Code of Obligations, if the leased property is returned before the end of the lease agreement, it is regulated that the lease agreement will continue for a reasonable period during which the property could be rented out under similar conditions.
To be relieved of paying the rent or ancillary expenses resulting from the early return of the rented property, the tenant must find a new tenant who is acceptable to the landlord, financially capable, and willing to take over the lease. If the landlord rejects the new tenant or wishes to change the rental amount, the tenant’s obligation to pay rent will terminate.
IV. The Issue of Returning the Leased Property
Even if the tenant declares the unilateral termination of the lease agreement, the leased property must be delivered properly. The delivery of the leased property can be done by mutual agreement between the parties and preparing a handover protocol, or it can be enforced through eviction procedures. If the eviction process is not conducted in accordance with the law, it may cause inconvenience for both the tenant and the landlord in the future.
For the physical possession of the leased property to be sufficient for delivery to the landlord, it is advisable to have a written handover protocol. If the landlord refuses to sign the handover protocol, the tenant should protect themselves by following these steps:
1. Determination of Delivery Location
If the landlord does not accept the early delivery of the leased property and refuses to take back the keys, the tenant should apply to the court to determine the delivery location. By delivering the keys to the designated location determined by the court, the tenant’s liability arising from the lease agreement may come to an end. Otherwise, the lease agreement will be considered legally valid.
2. Determining the Condition of the Leased Property
Another issue when the landlord does not accept the early delivery is the condition of the leased property. Often, lease agreements state how the property and its fixtures were delivered to the tenant. Similarly, the lease agreement may include provisions on how the property should be returned. For example, if the lease agreement states that the property was delivered empty, clean, painted, and in a habitable condition, the property should generally be returned in the same state. The fixtures specified in the lease agreement should also be returned accordingly.
In case of early delivery of the leased property, it is advisable for the tenant to document the current condition of the property with the help of an expert or a notary to have a formal record. This will resolve any dispute related to the condition of the property. In such a case, the tenant may also request the return of the security deposit paid at the beginning of the lease agreement.
V. Non-Usage of the Leased Property
It is the landlord’s duty to ensure that the leased property is in a usable condition during the tenancy. If the leased property is not in a usable condition, the tenant may avoid paying the rent by documenting the situation.
Even if the tenant does not use the leased property, they are still obligated to pay the rent and ancillary expenses. Non-usage of the leased property does not terminate the lease agreement (Turkish Code of Obligations Article 324).
Memduh Remzi BAL
Lawyer / Attorney in Turkey
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