what steps you should take to protect your property?

Let us then look at what steps you should take to protect your property if you are an NRI with land or house in India. But before that a quick look at how illegal occupation takes place.

How illegal occupation takes place
There are two ways in which illegal occupation can take place. "First is when squatters prepare forged documents and threaten you that you do not have legal rights to the property. Generally these are thugs or people with connections who resort to these kinds of tactics to force someone to pay a cost for redeeming their property and enjoying peaceful possession or to force them to make a sale at a distressed value. Sometimes, this has even happened with the connivance of the local revenue authorities. The second is where a tenant forcefully overstays and illegally occupies your property in the face of inadequate checks and balances as well as poorly drafted contracts," Sunder says.

How to protect
Broadly speaking, the basic rule to follow here is to ensure that you have all your documentation in place to prove your legal rights over the property. "To establish right on the property the owner or a person claiming possession must have documents such as the title deeds, jamabandis, mutation/ intkal, copy of the Will (if any) where the property has been inherited by way of a Will, original purchase agreement/sale deed, electricity bills, water bills and telephone bills etc.," Singh says.
Bangalore based Advocate Lokesh Anjanappa adds, "First and foremost, after acquiring a property (by means of purchase, gift, relinquishment, bequeathment etc.,) you MUST get all the revenue records mutations done in your favor. If the property is inherited or has come down by way of bequeathment (Will) and the title deed is not in your custody either because the same is untraceable or lost, it is advisable to immediately lodge a formal police complaint to the effect. Next, insert a public notice in at least two local newspapers about the ownership rights over that particular property and obtain 'certified copies' of all such documents from the concerned registering authority or revenue offices. Secondly, pay all outgoings and liabilities like municipality/panchayath/property tax to the authorities in time."

In addition, you must be in touch with your neighbors so that they may be able to notify you in case they notice any activity. You must also keep checking on the property, through friends and relatives, at periodic intervals so that people know that the property is not a soft target. "," Anjanappa says.

Having said that, Sunder lists some specific tips that you may want to keep in mind with respect to land and houses.

Specific to plot of land
- With technology like Google Maps, you can keep a tab on your property from any place in the world. Although it may not be real time monitoring, any major changes on your plot (temporary or permanent structures) will get noticed sooner than later.
- Generally plots in gated communities with proper security are unlikely to encounter encroachment. But even here, in some cases such as on the city outskirts, the chances of encroachment cannot be ruled out. Open plots of land are more susceptible because they are not particularly guarded against encroachment by anyone.
- If you have to give a Power of Attorney (PoA) to a relative or friend, make sure it is a specific one
- Fence the property and put up a board
- If required, take the assistance of a professional service provider who can help you with monitoring the property. Professional firms make periodic visits, fence the property and put up boards. This sends out a strong message to possible encroachers that you are better off leaving the property alone.
If feasible, bring up a small concrete construction in the property, which can be rented out to a tenant under proper documentation (Rental Agreement/Lease Deed)

Specific to tenancy
- Have good tenancy agreements that protect your interests. Even if you must hire the services of a lawyer, it might be well worth it.
- If you have appointed a tenant through a relative or friend through a PoA, ensure that you know the tenant and have a copy of the agreement entered into. Sometimes people get deceived even within the family or friends just because they aren't clear with the terms upfront. Where you cannot afford to mix up your personal relationship with an obligation like this, avoid it all costs.

- Get your tenant registered with the local police station in places where such tenant registration is either mandatory or is voluntarily accepted. You maybe harboring a terrorist and may not even know about it.

- Promptly renew lease agreements on fresh terms as may be on expiry of contract or request vacation.

- Check if your rental payments are coming through into your bank monthly. Checks can get bounced and you may not even notice it for a very long time. This makes the tenant even more secure that he/ she cannot be dislodged easily.

- Do your due diligence on the tenant prior to the tenancy, not after. Most people willingly accept tenants whose past history is unknown because the person is willing to pay a few thousands more than what others are willing to pay. There is no concept of credit/tenant rating in India, so most people go by merely what they see and hear about the person.

What List of Documents to Check before Buying Your Home?

You must always remember that property documents are the most vital part of any investment in properties. In order to avoid fraudulence attempt to cheat you, it is essential to check the following documents:

  • Sale Deed: This will be the core legal document that will act as proof of sale as well as the transfer of ownership from your buyer to you. This should be registered compulsorily. It is to be note
  • d that prior to the execution of sale deed, you must execute the sale agreement while at the same time checking for the compliance of various terms and conditions as agreed upon by you and your seller. Also, well before executing the sale deed, you must check whether the property under deal is bearing a clear title.
  • Mother Deed: This is the parent document which is an important legal document that would help you in tracing the antecedent ownership of the property under deal right from the start. You will need this document to further sale your property. In case, there is no mother deed available, you must make sure that you obtain the certified copies from the registering authorities. Also, it is very much important that the mother deed has recorded the references to previous ownerships in a continuing sequence. In case, something is missing, you should refer the records from registering offices. The sequence should have been updated until the current owner.This is very important if you’re buying through a home loan. (P.S: Check how to get credit score and how it affects home loan)
  • Approval Plan of Your Building
  • : Any building owner must obtain an approval plan either from the jurisdictional commissioner or any other officer who got authorized by commissioner. One will be required to submit a set of documents in order to obtain a building approval plan. Those documents include:

o       Title Deed

o       Property Assessment Extract

o       Property PID number

o       City/Panchayat survey sketch

o       Up-to date tax receipt

o       Earlier sanction plans

o       Drawings of the property

o       Demand drafts

o       Foundation certificate

o       Land use certificate

  • Conversion Certificate: With the major amounts of land being agricultural in India, a conversion certificate is important to be obtained from the legal body. This is the certificate that will be issued by competent revenue authority in order to change the use of land from agricultural to housing purposes. A NOC (No Objection Certificate) should be obtained from the Tahsildar office and land regulatory  for this conversion.
  • Encumbrance Certificate: This would mean changes in the ownership on property that has been held against a home loan. This would consist of all the registered transactions that are done on the property during the time duration for which this EC is filed. In simple terms, this will provide you with evidences of mortgages, title transfers or any legally registered transaction that affects your property. The single most important document after Sale and Mother deeds.
  • Power of Attorney: This is a legal procedure that is used in giving the authority to another person by the owner on behalf of him/her. The PoA holder can let-out, mortgage, sell the property on your behalf. So be careful before giving Power Of Attorney. In late 2013, the government has made registering PoA  mandatory to be valid.
  • Tax Receipts: These would ensure that the taxes have been paid until the date of sale. You must make sure that you ask your seller for the latest original receipts in order to check the details of owner’s name along with the tax payer’s name and date of payment. If your seller does not have the tax receipts, you are allowed to contact the municipal body by using survey number of the property in order to confirm the ownership. Other bills like water and electricity bills are also need to be checked.
  • Completion Certificate: This will be issued by the municipal authorities stating that building is in compliance with rules and is built according to the approved plans. This is very important at the time of purchasing
  • Occupancy Certificate: An inspection will be performed by the authorities when the builder is applying for this certificate in order to ensure that the building is meeting all the norms that are specified
  • . In simple terms, the certificate would certify you that the project is ready for occupancy.

Though, it is important that you check for all the aforementioned documents while buying a new home, it is also essential to have a property lawyer vetting for these documents.

Various Ways in which you can be cheated?

Most of the sellers will be using one or more of the following ways in order to cheat you while selling a new home to you. A thorough understanding of these ways would help you in getting immunity against the fraudulence. Take a look at the following ways:

  • Documents Could be Fake: This is the most common in which you can be cheated by the seller. In most of the fraudulent cases, it was found that the buyer has been provided with fake documents for the property being sold. This would make the buyer to lose all the hard earned money. Also, you may have to fight legally in the court for years. I would recommend you to check whether the documents and particulars have been verified from Sub-Registrar office to avoid this kind of fraudulence.
  • Double Mortgage Chances: Before selling the property to you, there are chances for the seller to have mortgaged the property with two different banks. The seller would have availed loans on the property and might have escaped after selling the mortgaged property. If you are buying this kind of homes, the banks will approach you saying that your property was mortgaged in their banks. You will be the one who is going to lose all the hard earned money by getting trapped into these kinds of fraudulence. Also, you may be required to fight a legal battle in the court. Again, if you want to avoid these kinds of cheating, all the particulars of ownership should get verified from Sub-Registrar office.
  • Chances for General Power of Attorney: There are chances that you are buying your home from the person who was given with the general power of attorney by the real owner. You may find it later that the same house was sold by different persons who were given with general power of attorney to different buyers. Also, in some cases you may see the real owner would have approved more than one person as general power of attorneys. You must be really thoughtful about this kind of fraudulence before making any real estate purchase.
  • Government Lands may be shown to you: These are the other cases of most common fraudulence. Your seller may show you the fake layout. The entire plot might not belong to the seller himself. You may become one of the victims of fraudulence if the seller has created an unauthorized layout in Government land, sell the plot to you and run way. You must be watchful and make sure whether the plot or house shown to you by the owner or real estate agent is really owned by him/her. You would have to make some local enquiries in order to avoid these kinds of cheating.
  • More than One Registration: You should be aware of these kinds of cheating also. You would approach a seller or real estate broker with an intention to buy a property. After paying some considerable amount, the registration might be done in your name. Later, when you are intending to sell the home due to any personal issues, you might come to know that there are some other people who are claiming the ownership. This would happen when the owner is selling the same house to different persons without the knowledge of each other. If you are the first buyer in this case, you must fight legally in order to prove your ownership.
  • Encroachments are also Possible: There are chances that the seller has encroached into his/her neighbor’s property by creating/violating a lay out. He/she may register this encroached layout in your name after getting a considerable amount of money from you. When you are about to move to your new home only you will know that you are not the owner of the purchased house and you have no rights over it. This would make it impossible for you to claim your money back if your seller has escaped from the scene.
  • Dubious Agreements May be Given: There are chances that you are given with the dubious agreements. For instance, you are intending to buy a flat that is measuring a particular size, say 1200 square feet and after paying a considerable amount, you get your flat registered in your name. However, when you measure your flat at a later point of time, you may see that the original size of the flat is lesser than the one that is mentioned in the agreement, say for example only 900 square feet. You must be really very cautious about these kinds of cheating done by your seller.

Thus, it is really very important to verify each and every criterion with the sub-registrar in order to make a right choice. Also, nowadays it is becoming very essential to make some local enquiry about the home and the owner in order to be at the safer side. By doing these, you are more likely to avoid the fraudulence that is being tried over you by the seller or real estate agent.