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Unjustified Enrichment and Claiming Compensation Under Turkish Law
In the complex world of legal disputes, unjustified enrichment is vital in addressing the imbalances that may arise in various transactions. Under Turkish Law, unjustified enrichment is a powerful tool to ensure equitable treatment and compensation for affected parties. In this article, we delve into the intricacies of unjustified enrichment and the process of claiming compensation under Turkish law. With a confident and informative approach, we aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of this legal concept and its implications for individuals and businesses navigating the legal landscape in Turkey.
What is Unjust Enrichment?
Unjust enrichment occurs when a person’s assets increase at someone else’s expense without a valid reason. While unjust enrichment is considered a source of debt under the law of obligations, its primary aim is to return values, goods, or ideas that have been transferred from one person’s assets to another’s without a legitimate basis.
Enrichment can take the form of an increase in assets, a decrease in liabilities, or relief from impoverishment. In cases of relief from impoverishment, it involves being freed from expenses, loss of rights, or liabilities. The principle of “equity and balancing justice” underlies unjust enrichment. As a result of this principle, it is not subject to any legal capacity requirements. Neither the person who becomes richer nor the person who becomes poorer needs to have the capacity to act; even the power of discernment is not required for this debt to arise.
What is Claiming Compensation (Reimbursement of Payments)?
The primary condition for a refund debt based on unjust enrichment is an increase in someone’s assets. The amount of enrichment in the assets determines the maximum limit of the receivable that can be requested due to unjustified enrichment. For unjust enrichment to occur, the enrichment must not be based on a valid reason. When investigating the cause, it is divided into two groups, as follows:
Enrichment as a result of performance: This type of enrichment occurs due to actions taken to fulfill a debt. The person making a statement knows that the other party is becoming richer and is acting for a specific purpose. However, the debt relationship does not form a basis for this gain, or the person’s expectation is unfulfilled. Some situations that lead to this outcome include the absence of agreement on the reason, in which case different legal reasons involved in earning and enriching are considered the basis for earning. Another example is the fulfillment of an unindebted act. In this case, the person mistakenly performs an action they believe is a debt. The person may also have performed the action considering a reason that may occur in the future, or the reason for the action may have subsequently become invalid despite being valid at the time of the acquisition. All these situations constitute unjust enrichment as a result of performance. In unjust enrichment resulting from some performance, a claim for restitution cannot be made. Such instances include the performance of moral duty and gains made contrary to law and morality, the performance of an expired debt, and the performance of other incomplete debts.
Enrichments other than performance: These are enrichments realized against someone else by knowingly providing gains to the other party without the intent of performance. As a final condition, a causal connection is sought between the impoverishment of the party whose assets are diminishing and the enrichment of the other party.
What is The Obligation of “Duty of Return” (Debt of Return) From Unjust Enrichment?
If the conditions described above are met, the person who becomes rich is legally obligated to return the excess formed in their assets. The regulations stipulate that what was received should be returned in kind as much as possible instead of monetary compensation.
üSince the claim for restitution is based on a receivable right, as a rule, it can be brought forward only against the person who has an excess of assets and their successors. To return their assets, a person must prove that the defendant has become rich at their expense without a valid reason.
What is The Scope of the “Duty of Restitution” (Return Debt) Based on Unjust Enrichment?
The obligation of the person who has become enriched without reason will vary depending on whether they have good or bad intentions. Since the primary consideration is good intentions, the impoverished person must prove that the unjustly enriched person does not have good intentions. A person’s intentions are determined according to the moment when the subject of enrichment leaves the assets of the enricher. In terms of the costs incurred on the subject, the time the cost is made is considered.
A well-intentioned person is someone who does not know or does not need to know that their enrichment is unfair. This person does not need to know who the impoverished person is for it to be accepted that they are becoming richer without bad intentions.
If people exercise the care and attention expected of them, they will not be considered well-intentioned if they realize their enrichment is not based on a valid reason. It is also possible that a person loses their well-intentioned status by first being well-intentioned and then realizing it is unfair to be rich. From the point of disappearance, a person is subjected to bad or good enrichment provisions.
A well-intentioned person is responsible for returning only what remains in their possession at the time of the legal return. They can assert the defense that even if they are at fault in the disappearance of the unjustly enriched assets, the assets have disappeared, but this person is under the burden of proving that the gains left their hands before the time to request a refund.
Even if the subject of unjustified enrichment has disappeared so that it is no longer possible to return it, if a benefit has been provided to the debtor of the refund, this benefit is considered unjustified enrichment. It constitutes the subject of the refunded debt. At the same time, the fruits brought by the acquired thing and other benefits provided are also included in the scope of the return.
On the other hand, a person with bad intentions knows that their enrichment is unfair and that they are obliged to return it. Even if the person with bad intentions has made the goods nonrefundable, they should return the initial enrichment, not the amount of enrichment, when requesting it back.
If a decrease in the value of the property subject to enrichment has occurred, and the person with bad intentions is not at fault for the decrease in enrichment and has proven it, they will be released from the refunded debt at this rate. The fact that a person has bad intentions does not mean they will be held responsible for reductions that occur for reasons they do not have control over.
What is The Right to Claim Expenses Arising From Unjustified Enrichment?
A well-intentioned person may request mandatory and useful expenses that they have made for unjustified enrichment when asking for a refund. Mandatory and useful expenses of the well-intentioned person will be deducted from the refunded debt. In this regard, if the value of other assets of the refund debtor has decreased or disappeared, the refunded debt will also decrease to this extent. However, a person can’t claim luxury expenses made, even for well-intentioned enrichment.
Luxury expenses are not mandatory and useful expenses but are those that a person makes based on their own will. Suppose the enricher has added a part to the property within the scope of luxury expenses, which can be separated from it without damaging the property. In that case, the enricher can separate this part and take it. However, if the creditor has offered to pay the value of this piece, the enriched person cannot disassemble it and take it.
The person has the right to demand the mandatory expenses they have made. However, they cannot ask for luxury expenses because a person is aware that the goods are not theirs and must act accordingly when they have them. If the person has obtained other gains thanks to enrichment and has caused their disappearance later imperfectly, they will also be held responsible for this. They will be under the debt of restitution.
What is The Statute of Limitations For Unjust Enrichment?
The statute of limitations is regulated in Article 82 of the Turkish Code of Obligations. According to this;
“The right of a claim arising from unjustified enrichment expires with the passage of two years starting from the date when the right holder learns that they have the right to demand it back, and in any case, ten years starting from the date of enrichment.“
For the beginning of the two years here, the impoverished must know at least approximately the enrichment, the person who has become richer, and the extent of the enrichment.
In addition, according to the special regulation in 82/2, even if the statute of limitations has expired, if the enrichment has taken place by the enriched person gaining a right to a receivable, the other party will always be able to avoid the performance of this debt.
The Case of Unjustified Enrichment
A person who wants to file a lawsuit based on unjustified enrichment should file this case in the “Civil Courts of First Instance“. The person who becomes rich for no reason is shown as the plaintiff. The case may also be directed to their heirs if the person is not alive.
Regarding location, the competent court is “the defendant’s residence“. In some cases of unjustified enrichment, mediation is required. These are the cases arising from Commercial and Labor law. Mediation is a condition of litigation in these cases. If a lawsuit is filed without mediation, the court will procedurally reject it. The person should also indicate the case value in the lawsuit petition and deposit the calculated fee to the teller. The expense advance must also be paid.
Although both parties are under the burden of proof, the plaintiff must prove the events they claim while filing a lawsuit with evidence in accordance with the law. The cases that cannot be sued are specified in the Turkish Code of Obligations 78/2. According to this,
“Enrichments arising from the performance of a debt that has expired or the fulfillment of a moral duty cannot be requested back.“
In conclusion, unjust enrichment is a legal concept that seeks to return assets, goods, or ideas that have been transferred without a valid reason. The primary goal is to restore fairness and equalize justice in such situations. The rules and procedures regarding unjust enrichment, the obligation of restitution, and the statute of limitations vary depending on the jurisdiction. It is essential to consult with a qualified attorney to understand the specific laws and regulations that apply to your case.
- Oguzman Kemal, Oz Turgut, Borclar Hukuku, Vedat Kitapcilik.
- Dinc Mutlu “Sebepsiz Zenginlesme Davasinin Acilamayacagi Haller”, Terazi Hukuk Dergisi, 13/139 (Mart, 2018).
-  <https://barandogan.av.tr/blog/borclar-hukuku/sebepsiz-zenginlesme-davasi-nedir.html>