Prosecutors launch probe into rent hikes in eastern Elazığ after deadly earthquake

Prosecutors launch probe into rent hikes in eastern Elazığ after deadly earthquake

Prosecutors launch probe into rent hikes in eastern Elazığ after deadly earthquake

A prosecutor’s office in the earthquake-hit eastern province of Elazığ has launched a probe into house rents following news reports on hikes after the disaster that claimed 41 lives on Jan. 24.

“An official investigation and probe has been launched following reports that said citizens in our province, whose houses were damaged in the earthquake, faced exorbitant prices in their search for new houses,” the Elazığ Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement on Jan. 30.

Urbanization and Environment Minister Murat Kurum also said that the government is watching the rents.

“Our ministries are conducting controls on hikes. A few opportunists may emerge. We will do what is necessary about them,” Kurum said.

After a deadly earthquake jolted eastern Elazığ province, claiming 41 lives and injuring thousands, rents in the city have nearly doubled, according to local media reports.

A 6.8-magnitude quake shook Elazığ on Jan. 24, causing 37 deaths in Elazığ and four in neighboring Malatya. According to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), some 1,607 were injured and 45 were pulled from the rubble.

Elazığ residents have started to face problems finding suitable shelters after hundreds of buildings collapsed or their houses sustained cracks and damage.

With temperatures hitting below zero degrees during nights, the locals, who have been staying in tents, schools, mosques, and gyms, started to look for apartments for rent.

It was later revealed that many property owners in the city doubled their prices after the quake, stirring outrage among the nation.

According to local media reports, apartments which were 700 Turkish Liras (almost $117) per month now cost some 1,500 Turkish Liras (about $250).

Even though the quake victims object to the increased prices, many had to accept the situation due to cold weather conditions of the region.

“They want 2,000 liras for a home which is actually worth 1,000 liras,” a quake victim told daily Hürriyet.

Although the victims consented to the property owner’s approach, they still want authorities to take measures for the issue.

“Thankfully we are not hungry, but we cannot find homes because these profiteers increased the prices,” another quake victim said.

“We all want it to be prohibited,” he added.

Estate agents disturbed too

On the market’s other side, real estate agents are also complaining about the situation.

Hakan Albayrak, the head of Elazığ’s Real Estate Agents Association, said that regardless of the increased prices, the market demand for rental homes continued to rise due to the lack of residences.

“People started to look for rental homes because the damaged buildings started to be demolished,” he said.

Albayrak also said that although some “opportunists” increased their prices by twofold, other property owners decreased the rental prices or temporarily gave their homes to quake victims free of charge.

The agents will notify the authorities for property owners who deliberately increased the prices, Albayrak conveyed.