Disputes over the Title of an Immovable Property of NRI

A clear title of the property is the very basic requirement to enjoy the undisputed rights over the property. Title of the property designates the ownership rights to a person. A person must have in his/her possession proper documentary records to reiterate his/her ownership over the property. A clear title not only protects the rights of the true owner in case of a dispute but is the prerequisite to perform any transaction in relation to the property, like renting, sale, construction and such. If we talk in figures, there is no dearth of disputes over the titleship of the properties, in India. A lot of these disputes caters to the properties of the NRI. As a lot of NRI kind of abandon their property back home, they become easy targets of land grabbing mafia.

How can one acquire the title of a property?

A person can acquire the title of a property in the following ways:

  1. Through inheritance – Where the owner has been passed down the property from his predecessors or any other person. Inheritance can also be divided in two ways.
    1. Through Will
    2. By way of natural succession.
  2. Through purchase While acquiring the property through purchase, the buyer must get a thorough title check done on the property to lessen the chances of any conflict of interests. When can dispute over the title arise? A dispute over title can arise at any time, during the course of any transaction, or once the transaction has taken place. What are the reasons for the dispute over immovable property? Reasons for a dispute over an immovable property can vary according to the mode of title transfer. Some of the reasons can be:
    1. Legal heirs of a testator (writer of the will) contesting the validity of the proposed will in the court on grounds of –
      1. Incapacity of the testator owing to unsound mind
      2. Forging of the will by certain beneficiaries for their personal benefit. It is a growing concern in the case of NRI who are being of their inheritance through forgery by the relatives staying in India.
      3. Undue Influence – The neutrality of the will can be contested on the grounds that the testator was unduly influenced
      4. Two Wills – In case of two wills, a will can be challenged on grounds of not being the latest will.
  3. Faulty Representation by the Seller – Maximum number of title disputes arises over the purchase of the property. A title dispute on purchase arises when:
    1. When the seller does not have the right to sell the property
    2. When the seller sells an already disputed property, i.e the property is either involved in a litigation or has defected title.
    3. When the seller misrepresents the obligation of the new owner.
  4. Improper Documentation – Proper documents from the authority are imperative to establish a clear title. In absence of the documents, a dispute can arise over the title. How can the dispute over immovable property be solved? Firstly, while purchasing the property the buyer must take some preventive measures to avoid being cheated. The preventive measures include:
    1. Title Search
    2. Examining the location and the condition of the property
    3. Checking of all the requisite government approvals
    4. Registration record of the property
    5. Background check of the builder/ developer
    6. Any impending monetary or other dues on part of the seller etc.

The buyers, especially the NRI are advised to hire the services of an expert property lawyer to avoid any dispute in future.