Ask A Lawyer: keep away from scams whereas reserving holidays

As the summer holiday season approaches in the shadow of the global COVID-19 pandemic, summer houses and villas are preferred by holidaymakers, rather than hotels. But, the very high amounts being asked by landlords, real estate agents and brokers in seasonal rentals is drawing the ire of vacationers.

For instance, seasonal rents in holiday regions such as Çeşme, Bodrum and Marmaris have increased to the limit of 400,000 Turkish Liras (almost $46,000). Attorney Elvan Kakıcı Şimşek, one of the founders of Kakıcı & Şimşek Law Firm, warned citizens against those who want to defraud them while looking for vacation villa rentals.

Şimşek stated that holidaymakers wanting to spend their summer vacation in isolation away from the crowds found themselves in a position where they had to pay exorbitant amounts.

Rental schemes

Şimşek underlined that holidaymakers were already being asked to pay much more than market value, and that they should be extra careful not to fall into the trap of fraudsters who are taking advantage of the pandemic. Accordingly, Şimşek warns holidaymakers by providing some important information along with recommendations below:

  • Before renting, do market research in the area that you plan to stay. Be sure to check the prices of other similar villas in the location. If the price of the villa or cottage you want to rent is noticeably low compared to others, the reason for this should be questioned.
  • A contract must be made, and the contract to be signed for seasonal house rentals should include information such as the rental price, the date on which the rent will be deposited, and the end date of the rental.
  • The fixtures in the rented house and the special conditions of the rental should also be included in the contract. Extra fees such as tax and cleaning fees should be clarified by speaking with the landlord.
  • If the availability calendar is not updated after you have rented the cottage, it will most likely be rented to different people several times on the same dates. So, be sure to check the availability calendar after the rental.

Online booking

Another important point in the preparation phase has to do with online booking. As people start to prepare for their summer holidays with COVID-19 restrictions gradually lifting, cybercrooks are utilizing a variety of methods to defraud those who want to rent villas for vacation. Cybersecurity experts warn that cybercriminals copy well-known online booking sites and try to defraud people with discounts and low-price ads.

People should be wary of these attempts and others such as fraudsters contacting them via email, phone calls and posts on social media.

  • As much as possible, book directly through a reputable travel company or agency that is a member of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB). Always use known websites and apps.
  • Request a reservation contract to be sent to you when you make a reservation. In this way, you will learn the main details of your holiday – such as the facility address, name, location and other detailed information in advance.

So, you got scammed

Şimşek also gives information on the legal rights of people who are victims of such tourism traps or who are defrauded.

People can request an investigation to be conducted by first applying to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism or TÜRSAB. However, if they cannot obtain satisfactory results from administrative applications, they should seek their rights as consumers through the legal system.

In case of problems with hotels and travel agencies, consumers can apply to the Consumer Arbitration Committees of the province or district where they reside seeking compensation for the harm they have suffered. It would be helpful to submit contracts, invoices, payment receipts and other relevant documentation for these applications.

Applications made to Consumer Arbitration Committees may be resolved in a shorter time compared to other methods.

If the compensation of the dispute breaches the limit of the Consumer Arbitration Committee, they should apply to the Consumer Courts.

In addition, people who are victims of tourism fraud can file a complaint with an application to a prosecutor in the courthouses with all the records and documents that they have. As a result of the application made to the prosecutor’s office and the evidence provided, the investigation and the trial process could begin against the person or the institution.

Unfortunately, the effective and fast solution required by the Tourism Law in consumer complaints about travel agencies, hotels and guides in Turkey cannot be easily provided.

Therefore, it is very important for consumers to carefully read the terms of the contracts they sign with the landlord, hotel, travel agency or guide, in order to prevent legal problems that may arise and ensure they are not defrauded.

In order to protect their interests, it is essential to make the necessary research and inspections beforehand, and only make payments after.

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