No one should enrich themselves at the expense and loss of another: Locupletari non debet aliquis cum alterius iniuria ve iactura.
It is naturally equitable for no one to become richer at the expense of another: Natura aequum est neminem cum alterius detrimento fieri locupletiorem.
No one should become richer at the detriment of another: Nemo eum damno alterius locupleitor fieri debet.
Unjust enrichment refers to the situation where a person enriches themselves without a valid reason by using someone else's property or labor. Unjust enrichment occurs without the will of the owner of the property, money, or labor. Unjust enrichment is also referred to as wrongful enrichment or unjust acquisition. The issue of unjust enrichment is addressed in Articles 77 and 82 of the Turkish Civil Code.
"ARTICLE 77 - Anyone who enriches themselves at the expense of another person's property or labor without a justifiable reason is obliged to return this enrichment. This obligation arises particularly when the enrichment is based on an invalid, unrealized, or terminated reason."
Restitution for Unjust Enrichment
A person who enriches themselves from another person's property or labor without a justifiable reason is obliged to return this enrichment.
"ARTICLE 79 - The person who has been unjustly enriched is obliged to return the portion that they can prove has been disposed of, excluding the portion that they can prove has been disposed of during the request for repayment. If the enriched person has disposed of the enrichment without good faith or if, when disposing of it, they should have taken into account the possibility of having to return it in the future, they are obliged to return the entire enrichment."
As can be seen from this provision, the situation differs depending on whether the enriched party acted in good faith. If the person who has been unjustly enriched is acting in good faith, meaning they are unaware of their enrichment or they are unaware in a situation where they could have known, they are obliged to return what remains in their possession at the time of the request for repayment. Additionally, if the enriched person is acting in good faith, they can claim their necessary and beneficial expenses from the party making the repayment request.
If the party who has been unjustly enriched is not acting in good faith, the repayment obligation at the time of repayment covers the entire enrichment. In other words, they must return the entire enrichment to the other party. Additionally, if the enriched person is not acting in good faith, they can request payment only for the value increase that exists at the time of repayment from their necessary expenses and beneficial expenses.
Situation Where the Claim for Repayment in Unjust Enrichment Cannot Be Asserted
Something given with the intention of achieving an unlawful or immoral outcome cannot be reclaimed. However, in such cases, the judge in a claim for repayment arising from unjust enrichment can decide to transfer the thing given for the purpose of achieving such outcome to the state. (Turkish Civil Code, Article 81)
Conditions for an Unjust Enrichment Claim
In order to speak of unjust enrichment, the following four conditions must be met:
Jurisdiction and Venue in Unjust Enrichment
In debt cases arising from unjust enrichment, the competent court is the Civil Courts of First Instance, and the appropriate court is the Civil Courts of First Instance located at the defendant's place of residence (where their domicile is located).
Burden of Proof in Unjust Enrichment
In debt cases arising from unjust enrichment, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff. The plaintiff must prove that the conditions for unjust enrichment have been met.
Proof in Claiming Unjust Enrichment for Money Transfers through Bank Transfer: A bank transfer is considered a payment method by its legal nature, and it is accepted as a legal presumption that the transfer is made for the purpose of debt payment. However, in the case of bank transfer receipts, if the reason stated in the payment details, such as "advance payment-debt payment-based on a contract-vehicle sale, etc.," contradicts the intended purpose of the transferred funds, i.e., the funds were not sent for the specified purposes, the burden of proof lies with the defendant to prove otherwise.
Statute of Limitations in Unjust Enrichment
"ARTICLE 82 - The right to claim arising from unjust enrichment becomes time-barred after the expiration of two years from the date the rightful owner learns about their right to reclaim, and in any case, after the expiration of ten years from the date the enrichment occurred.
If the enrichment occurred through the acquisition of a receivable right by the enriched party, the other party, even if the right to claim has become time-barred, can always refrain from fulfilling this debt."
In cases of unjust enrichment, the right of the creditor to claim restitution becomes time-barred after two years from the date they become aware of the existence of their right, and in any case, after ten years from the date the unjust enrichment occurred. The two-year period starts from the date when the injured party has conclusive knowledge that the action or transaction causing the depletion of their assets was unjust and becomes aware of the full extent of the depletion caused by the unjust enrichment. The ten-year period starts from the moment the obligation to return the enrichment arises.
In the decision of the 8th Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation dated 3 March 2015, with the file number 2014/1825 E. 2015/5366 K., the following judgment was rendered:
"After the finalization of the lawsuit for the termination of joint ownership, the lawsuit filed by one of the shareholders claiming that the structure on the subject immovable property belongs to them is considered as a claim for the amount that the defendants have unjustly enriched regarding the innovation fee, rather than a determination of the innovation. It is of the nature of a claim for payment based on the allegation that the defendants have unjustly enriched. It is stated that the economic enrichment and impoverishment occur at the moment when the joint ownership in the immovable property is terminated through sale. Therefore, in cases based on unjust enrichment, the right to claim and the starting date of the statute of limitations should be determined as the date when the immovable property subject to the termination of joint ownership is sold and the price is paid to the owners of the immovable property."
In the decision of the 19th Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation with the file number 2017/3410 E. 2018/3689 K., the following judgment was rendered:
"The lawsuit is related to the cancellation of the objection against the refund of payments made as advances in exchange for goods not delivered. There is no record on the money transfer receipts submitted to the file. As a rule, money transfer is made for the payment of a debt. In this case, it is necessary to prove with proper evidence that the money transfer made was an advance payment for a product order. It is considered incorrect to make a judgment based on documents that are not accepted by the defendant, do not contain any binding signature from the defendant, and can be issued at any time."
In the decision of the Plenary Session of the Court of Cassation dated 7 May 2008, with the file number 2008/362 E. 2008/368 K., the following judgment was rendered:
"The lawsuit filed on behalf of the Treasury, which did not approve the auction held on 06 November 1991, was finalized on 12 June 2001. The plaintiff cannot be held responsible for the increase in value of the immovable property until that date. However, since the action for cancellation and registration of the title deed was filed on 16 December 2005, the amount corresponding to the difference in value between 2001 and 2005 should be deposited by the plaintiff, added to the initial auction price, and a decision should be made to cancel the title deed."
Turkish Civil Code
Oğuzman / ÖZ – General Provisions of Law of Obligations Volume II - 12th Edition - Vedat Kitapçılık
Nihal YAVUZ – Handbook of Law of Obligations - 2018 - Adalet Yayınları
Fikret EREN – General Provisions of Law of Obligations – 26th Edition – Yetkin Yayınları