Saving yourself from fraud while buying or selling a property

Saving Yourself From Fraud While Buying or Selling A Property

It is a bitter fact that there is an occurrence of frauds while buying or selling the property. Misinformation or Ignorance or lack of information on procedures and documentation is the main cause.  However, one can easily avoid these complications. 

Some of such common frauds are:

Imperfect Title – For a buyer, it is significant to ensure that the seller has a clean title and can transfer the ownership rights in the property to the buyer. The title should be free from defects. The imperfect title means there is any encumbrance on the property or the property is disputed.

Multiple mortgages: The seller has mortgaged the house to different banks before selling the same.

Read More: How to obtain probate of a Will

Delayed possession by developers – In case of buying house/flat constructed by a builder, possession of the flat is often delayed. The buyer’s money gets blocked.   

Building not as per the approved plan– The builder does not construct the building as per the sanctioned plan. Necessary approvals from the Government are not taken. The property is not as per the description/advertisement. Sometimes the location of the property may also differ.

Fake Documents– There is also a practice of preparing fake title deeds. Either the signatures are forged or the document (property document) is not valid i.e. proper stamp duty not paid or document not registered as required.

Fraud by Impersonation: The person presenting himself as the owner of the property is not the actual owner. The documents are signed forging the signatures of the actual owner.

Home equity frauds– In simple words, home equity frauds means a fraud where the fraudster hacks the information about the true owner and reroutes the loan amount to his account by forging the signatures of the actual owner.

Read More: Transfer of Property on the basis of Registered or Unregistered Will

Misuse of power of attorney: A POA granted to execute a sale deed can be misused. It is better to get the same verified from a lawyer to avoid any dispute later.

How to avoid them:

Information and knowledge is the key to avoid any property related frauds. Some steps can be:

To verify the Credentials of the developer/builder:

If the builder/company is reputed, it can help to ensure that necessary approvals have been taken and promises made are not fake. Possession will not be delayed as the developer has maintained a good track record.

Checking the revenue records:

There is a mention of the lien/mortgage over the property in the revenue records. The same can be verified to ensure that property is free from encumbrances and title is clear.

Buying a resale property:

Collect the encumbrance certificate from the office of the Sub Registrar as it helps to verify that the title is clear. EC also contains the name of the previous owner. Also, check the tax payslips. Try to verify that all dues have been paid.

Read More: How to file a partition suit for a property in India

Buying a house in a society:

Check that the society is registered and there is a resident welfare association in place.

Buying a house from a builder:  

It is better to check that the project is registered with RERA. It helps to ascertain that all necessary approvals are in place and construction is as per norms. Moreover, possession will be granted as per promise.

From Seller’s point of view certain precautions are:

  • Buyers generally ask for original ownership documents. Sellers must possess the same
  • Seller must have Approved building plan or occupation certificate from the local authorities
  • Sellers must ascertain the identity of the buyers especially if the buyer is executing the conveyance deed using a power of attorney
  • Proper valuation of the property to quote the correct price

Taking legal advice:

Property transactions are complex. To avoid the occurrence of fraud, the parties must take legal advice and ensure proper documentation.

 Investment in the property must be taken seriously. The casual approach may land you in trouble.

Importance of Due Diligence and Title Search before Property Purchase

Importance of Due Diligence and Title Search before Property Purchase

Due diligence and title search play an important role in real estate/property transactions.  People approach us and often have the following queries.

What is due diligence and Title Search before property purchase?

It means taking all precautions and ensuring that investment in a property is safe and secure.

By exercising due diligence:

  • The buyer identifies and evaluates all types of risks involved in investment
  • The buyer tries to rule out/minimize these risks

How do we go about it?

Due diligence implies:

  1. Scrutiny of title:

Title Search relates explicitly to the search of ownership and the rights of the owner to sell the property. Two kinds of title search reports are there.

  • Full Search – The title of the property is searched for a period of previous 30 years.
  • Limited Search – The title of the property is searched for a period of previous few years (less than 15 )

The search report is prepared depending upon the nature of the transaction. The title search is a very crucial part of due diligence as the defective title leads to no transfer at all.

Also Read: What is a Sale Deed? Legal Importance and Registration Process

B. Search for the right of the owner to sell the property:

The owner must be capable of transferring ownership. The buyer has to ensure that there is no restriction to the power of alienation of the owner. The limitation can be there:

  • If the owner is a minor or a person of unsound mind. Such a person can sell through guardian or a person so authorized.  
  • The owner is not having an absolute right in the property.
  • The owner is a lessee or a tenant.
  • Statue does not permit sale of the property.

Which records are searched?

  1. The records maintained
  2. at Sub Registrar’s office
  3. with Tehsildar (mutation and Jamabandi)
  4. records maintained by Registrar of Companies
  • Title deeds – Gift deed, Will, Lease Deed, Sale Deed etc

 What is the significance?

There are many reasons to exercise due diligence before purchasing a property:

Also Read: How to cancel Illegal Registration of ancestral property

  • Increase in the number of frauds – There has been an increase in frauds related to real estate. Due diligence involves verification of documents, title and ownership rights to ascertain the authenticity of the same and therefore, helps to prevent fraud.
  • Cost of investment – People invest hard-earned money or a huge amount of loan in real estate. Due diligence is required to safeguard the funds being invested. As stated above, risks are identified, evaluated and minimized by due diligence.
  • Disputed property – Before buying a property, buyer has to ensure that the property is not involved in any litigation. If there is any court case pending concerning the property or the rights of the owner, it can pose hardships later for the buyer. The buyer is bound by the decision of the court, which may or may not be favourable. 
  • Encumbrances which affect the value of the property– The property intended to be purchased must be free from all types of encumbrances like
    • Mortgage
    • Lien
    • Charges due (utility bills, tax payment or any other statutory payment)
    • Litigation

A certificate in this regard is issued by the Office of the Sub Registrar. The buyer must inspect the original title deed as it is deposited with the Bank if there is any loan against the property.

Also Read: What To Do If Your Property Possession Has Been Delayed?

  • Easement Rights/ Acquisition process affect the interest of the purchaser: The property might be having
    • an easement right (right to have a passage through the land)
    • covered under acquisition scheme of the Government.

The buyer must check for the same. It affects the returns from investment.

  • Necessary Approvals – A buyer must ensure that the owner has obtained necessary approvals from the authorities. Approval is granted if the statutory requirements have been fulfilled. 

LEGAL ASSISTANCE

It is advisable to get legal assistance for the search of records and verification of documents.

What If Buyer or Seller Breaches Sale Agreement

What If Buyer or Seller Breaches Sale Agreement

Sale Agreement contains terms and conditions agreed to between the buyer and the seller for effecting the sale.

When the buyer or the seller acts in violation of these terms and conditions or does not act or refuses to act as required, there is a breach of sale agreement. There can be numerous examples of such breach such as:

  • Payment not made in stipulated time
  • Delivery of product not made as promised
  • Seller refuses to repair within the warranty period

Options with the party when other party breaches the sale agreement:

Also Read: How to save title of your property from illegal occupants?

When one party violates the sale agreement, the other party may give notice to the defaulting party to act as per agreed term. If the defaulting party fails to perform, the other party can

  • Cancel the sale agreement – as per the cancellation clause of the agreement, if any or through the court
  • Approach the court seeking directions to the defaulting party to perform as per the agreement – suit for performance
  • Approach the court to direct the defaulting party to compensate for the loss/damages caused to the party by the defaulting party – suit for damages
  • Ask for a refund of the advance payment made to the defaulting party – suit for the price
  • Retain the advance payment made by the defaulting party
  • Seek directions from court if warranty clause benefits not provided by the seller- suit for breach of warranty

Depending upon the nature of the agreement and its terms and conditions, all or any of the remedies mentioned above can be availed. It is the discretion of the court to grant a specific remedy as per law.

Read: Rights on mother’s property after her death

Specific remedies – (Governed by Indian Contract Act and Sales of Goods Act)

Remedies of Seller against buyer:

  • When the buyer refuses to pay – seller can file a suit for payment
  • When the buyer refuses to accept the goods – seller can file a lawsuit for damages, i.e. seller can recover loss caused to him based on the market price of the goods. The amount taken for calculating the loss is the price existing on the date of delivery of goods.

Remedies of Buyer against seller:

  • When the seller refuses to deliver – the buyer can file a suit for loss/damages caused to him by non- delivery of the product
  • When there is a breach of warranty by the seller-buyer can file a suit for recovery of purchase price or can seek damages. Buyer can also reject the goods but not always.

Remedy to seek interest for the loss – It is available both to the seller and the buyer to recover interest on the monetary loss, especially in suits for recovery of price.  It is the discretion of the court to allow or not. 

Read: Land Kabza- What to do?

Remedy if before the performance as per the agreement, one party clears its intention not to perform – Here the non-defaulting party can either consider it as a breach of the agreement and seek proper remedy or can wait for the defaulting party to perform on the due date.

If the buyer is in breach, the seller can

  • cancel the agreement
  • sue for damages
  • sue for price
  • Sue for claiming the goods if they are in possession of the buyer.

If the seller is in breach, the buyer can

  • Cancel the agreement
  • Sue for damages
  • Sue for performance
  • Reject the goods when delivered by seller if they are not in conformity with the agreed terms

Agreements are meant to be performed. The parties, however, are free to provide remedies in the agreement itself in case one party fails to perform its obligations. The remedies can be:

  • Cancellation Clause
  • Notice to be given or not
  • Advance to be retained or returned
  • Compensation/Damages –payment

Things to do when your home is not selling

Things to do when your home is not selling

A house is essential for a decent living. It is a part of “right to life”, a fundamental right. Investment in a house is made to create a permanent asset.

Investment in real estate is also a lucrative business option, more comfortable and predictable as compared to investment in stocks and shares.

House is put on sale for various reasons like:

  • Relocation
  • Speculative purposes
  • Financial necessity/Distress Sale

If the sale of the house is not getting any response, we advise our clients to consider certain factors as mentioned below: 

Pricing: setting the right price   

Setting the right price for home is very important and depends on the market rate. It is necessary to analyse price influencing factors such as the area where the property is situated, demand for the house whether for residential purpose or speculative investment etc. Accordingly, the price can be changed to attract the buyers and should be set to recover a reasonable amount. Reduction in price should be the last resort.

Time of sale:  Postpone the sale

There is a time when selling a house is more advantageous. It is when the demand for home is rising. Rising income, easy credit availability etc. are some factors which influence the demand for house. If the house is not selling, wait and watch the market movement. If the buyer has too many options, better to postpone the sale.

Try other alternatives: Lease or Rent

If the house is not selling, try other alternatives like offering the house on lease or rent. A tenant may be interested, and such a tenant who has a stake in the house will take good care of the property also.

Sometimes the buyers are not interested in immediate purchase as the arrangement of finance might be a problem. An offer of lease attracts such buyers as there is always an option to buy later. 

Advertisement: Best pictures

Ensure that the sale of the house has been properly advertised to reach to the maximum number and photographs of the house show the best features.

Title of the house and updated government records:

Ensure that the house put on sale has manifestly clear title and is free from all encumbrances. This fact should be evident from the Government records which buyers do check before buying a property. The land where the house is located is not disputed.  Take care that in a housing society, the house is freehold and sale is permitted without hassles.

Incentive:

Try offering some incentive e.g. discount if payment made early or payment made in full at once. 

Repairs/ Renovation:

The house on sale must be in order beforehand.  Repairs, where ever required should be attended. If need be, parts of the house can be renovated to enhance the physical as well as the material value of the house.

Real Estate Agent

The real estate agent hired for selling the house needs to be changed. The sale may require new perspective and better professional skills. Real Estate Agent should not have any vested interest in the sale.

Relocation Companies:

In case of relocation for work, employers arrange for buyouts through relocation companies.  It can be of great help.

Legal Advice: It is always better to engage a lawyer for the brokerage contract, title search, knowing the tax implications and preparation of legal documents, in case of property related matters. Selling a home becomes smooth with right advice and strategy.

Rules for selling immovable property in India and repatriation of sale proceeds

Rules for selling immovable property in India and repatriation of sale proceeds (1)

Real Estate investment and later selling property acquired in India by NRIs have always been a significant area inviting many queries. RBI governs sale and purchase of property by NRIs under FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act), 1999. RBI grants general Permission for property transactions by NRIs in India, and in some cases, specific permission of RBI is required. The rules and regulations have been simplified and made investor friendly

NRIs may want to sell the property as it is difficult to maintain if there is no plan to visit India or rent out the same and burden their family friends for payment of property tax, maintenance charges and other municipal dues

A Canadian Citizen who had inherited a property in India wanted to sell his property here in India and repatriate the sale proceeds. We answered the queries as follows:


Read: Sale of property in India by NRIs


Which property can be sold and to whom

  • Any property can be sold to a resident Indian – residential or commercial whether purchased, inherited or gifted.
  • In case the buyer is NRI – any property except agricultural land, plantation property and farmhouse.

Repatriation – It is a vast topic, but here we are confining ourselves to repatriation of sale proceeds only.

Sale proceeds can be legally and safely remitted through proper banking channels. Asset bought in India can be sold if they are purchased confirming to all the rules and regulations of foreign exchange. Once the property is sold, the next step is to repatriate the funds abroad:

If inherited/gifted -property is sold

  • The sale amount is deposited in NRO account. Repatriation is allowed up to USD One million per financial year. If remittance increases US dollar one million in a financial year, permission of RBI is required.
  • If the property has been inherited from a person residing outside India, special permission of RBI is needed.
  • NRIs can acquire agricultural land in India only through inheritance, and the same can be sold only to a resident Indian.

If the purchased property is sold:

a. The property was purchased while being a resident Indian

  • The sale proceeds are credited to NRO account and remittance from NRO account is allowed up to USD One million in a financial year after payment of tax.
  • The repatriation, in this case, is allowed only if the property is held for 10 years. If not, the sale proceeds are held in NRO account to complete 10 years.

Read: Can you sell your share of an Inherited Property?


b. The property was purchased as NRI

  • If the property was purchased using money resources in India (loan from bank or family friends) – sale proceeds are credited to NRO account. Repatriation limit is the same as in point a. Permission from RBI is required if remittance is more than that.
  • If the property was purchased on loan, repatriation is allowed up to the loan repayment amount made through NRE/FCNR accounts or remittance of foreign currency through banking channels.
  • If the property was purchased using foreign currency funds from NRE /FCNR account, the maximum amount of repatriation could be the foreign currency equivalent of the amount paid for the purchase.

In such case, repatriation of the entire principal amount is done without any restriction subject to the condition of repatriation of two residential properties only — no limit for commercial properties. Capital gains/profits are deposited in NRO account and are repatriated subject to condition of USD one million per financial year.

The repatriation limit applies to one person per financial year.


Read: Property rights of daughters Under Hindu Law in India


Documents required for repatriation of sale proceeds:

  • Certificate from Chartered Accountant – Form 15 CB
  • Certificate from income tax department – Form 15 CA
  • Application in a bank for foreign exchange
  • Proof of inheritance in case of sale of inherited property
  • Document proving sale

It is always advisable to hire a lawyer to ensure proper documentation and smooth repatriation of sale proceeds.