Skip to main content

Turkey's earthquake victims hit by exorbitant rent spikes, topping 60%

Turkey’s Justice Ministry is working on a draft amendment that would introduce jail terms of two to five years for landlords gouging prices in times of natural disasters.
Hairdressers give haircuts to people displaced by the earthquake at tent camp on February 19, 2023 in Hatay, Turkey. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit near Gaziantep, Turkey, in the early hours of February 6, followed by another 7.5-magnitude tremor just after midday. The quakes caused widespread destruction in southern Turkey and northern Syria and has killed more than 40,000 people. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

ANKARA — An exodus from Turkey’s quake-ravaged southeastern provinces has sent rent prices soaring in regions where hundreds of thousands of quake victims now seek new homes, prompting Ankara to draw up a bill introducing jail terms for gouging landlords.

The price surge comes atop an already acute housing crisis in Turkey, where overall rents increased nearly 173% last year, according to a study by BETAM, an Istanbul-based think-tank.

About 2 million quake victims have moved to neighboring and other provinces since the Feb. 6 temblors that killed more than 45,000 people and caused massive destruction. Some of them have found temporary shelter in hotels and public facilities, while others have sought new homes to begin rebuilding their lives.

The capital, Ankara — the seismically safest among Turkey’s top cities — has drawn at least 205,000 migrants from the disaster zone, more than any other city. In a matter of weeks, overall rent prices have shot up by up to 60% in the city, with some landlords doubling their asking prices, according to Hakan Akcam, head of the Ankara Realtors’ Chamber. 

Dilek Isik, who came from Adiyaman with her mother and daughter a week after the quakes, described going through “a shock bigger than the one of the earthquakes” as she looked for an apartment in Ankara while staying with a friend. “I called 20 real estate agents that day, and though I told them that I’m a quake victim, they didn't give a hoot,” she told Al-Monitor. 

Isik has stopped calling realtors and hopes that with the help of local friends, she will come across a landlord like the few benevolent people who are offering their rentals to quake victims for free. 

The government has offered rent assistance to the quake victims while pledging to build them new homes within a year. The assistance, however, is fixed and unlikely to fully cover rents in most places. 

Before the quakes, rents of the cheaper apartments in Ankara ranged from 3,000 to 4,000 Turkish liras ($158 to $212). Today, one would be lucky to find an apartment for less than 6,000 liras ($318) even in peripheral neighborhoods. In a country where nearly half of employees earn the minimum monthly wage of 8,500 liras ($450), such sums are prohibitive for anyone with modest means, let alone quake victims who have yet to find jobs. As for neighborhoods close to the city center or upscale suburban areas, the rents of three-bedroom apartments hover around twice the minimum wage.

Ozkan Bogan, an Ankara-based trade unionist, has been trying to help friends and relatives from the disaster zone relocate to the capital. Deterred by price gouging and the shrinking number of rentals on the market, some have already left Ankara for Manisa, a smaller city in western Turkey, while some families have been forced to share apartments, he said. 

“Most realtors would refuse to show you the apartments and do so only after the price is negotiated,” Bogan grumbled. “They would ask also for commissions, security deposits and public servants as guarantors. These people from the disaster zone are coming to an unfamiliar city — how are they supposed to find public servants as guarantors?”

Yasar, a teacher who came from Kahramanmaras — the epicenter of the quakes — along with his young daughter and pregnant wife, has yet to find an affordable place for his family in Ankara. “And the problem does not end with an apartment. You need furniture and will have bills to pay,” the 32-year-old said, urging the government to “lay hands” on the problem.

Onur Selcuk, a long-time real estate agent in Ankara, said that “opportunist” landlords have outnumbered those who offer free accommodation to quake victims or stick to reasonable prices. “The rents have soared significantly in the past week in particular, and, unfortunately, the number of apartments on offer is very small,” he added.  

Another realtor, who works in the upscale district of Cankaya, noted that some landlords were imposing tougher terms on the quake victims, asking them to make payments in advance or sign promissory notes. “People are desperately signing those contracts now, but how they are going to cope with those rents is unclear,” said the realtor, who declined to be named. 

As public outcry grew over the skyrocketing rents, prosecutors in Ankara and other cities announced this week they had launched probes over the complaints and ordered the police to take action in line with laws against financial crimes. Meanwhile, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported that the Justice Ministry was working on a draft penal code amendment that would introduce jail sentences of two to five years for landlords gouging prices in times of natural disasters. 

The quake-hit provinces have been home also to a large population of Syrian refugees. Nearly 42,000 refugees have returned to Syria after the disaster, according to Turkish officials, even though the temblors caused death and devastation in their home country as well. 

Yet most of the refugees remain in the disaster zone, lacking the means to relocate to other regions in Turkey. For the small numbers who have managed to move, the problem of accommodation is even bigger. According to the Cankaya realtor, landlords in Ankara — especially those in central neighborhoods — are unwilling to rent to Syrians. “There was already a prejudice and the apartments are in high demand now. The Syrians are not a priority,” he said.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in