This article looks into the evolution of property rights in two farm estates in the city of İstanbul between 1874 and 2000. In the 1970s, these farm estates developed into urban districts which were designated ‘illegal’ because their development did not conform to urban planning and/or property legislation. The research examines changes in the laws defining property rights over time, the transfers of property in the two farm estates, and the conflicts among the various actors over property rights or ownership. The findings demonstrate how property is established as the outcome of struggles and conflicts among actors, notably between those excluded from and those included in property ownership and between private and public interests in the definition of property rights. These conflicts are intensified by the high revenues obtained from urban land transactions. The findings also show that confrontations take place within the context of the property and urban planning laws while these laws are themselves negotiated during this process, eventually leading to changes in the laws when wide acceptance of local formulations force the state to seek a compromise. The study is also demonstrative of the variety of attitudes different state bodies adopt towards property relations in these districts.