How safe is the property of an NRI in India?

Sardar Sardul Singh, a Canadian citizen of Indian origin who was having his original house at Tilak Nagar, New Delhi was interested in coming back to India and perform some religious rites of his Late wife in the said house who was let-out to a family of Delhi.

However, the said religious performance of Mr Singh became a nightmare as the tenants aggressively and forcefully did not allow him to enter into his own house and failed to either identify him as the owner of the house, nor did they pay any monthly rentals to him.

In most situations, the legal way of eviction is cumbersome and time consuming. Further, the tenancy laws in most states are skewed in favor of the tenants. Therefore, prevention is always better than cure."

Raghvendra Singh, Partner in ConceptLegal believes, "A possessor enjoys certain judicial protection against third parties even if he is not the owner. This is in order to obviate unlawful acts of violence against the person in possession. However, illegal occupants take advantage of the prevalent laws with respect to possession and many owners face a lot of problem and harassment to get back their properties. The problem is worse in cases of NRIs who are not physically present to look after the properties and forced to depend on locals to look after the properties and litigation if any."

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/panchayat/property tax to the authorities in time."

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