NRIs, In Whose Care Is Your Property?

April 2018


That real estate investments are a double-edged sword is no secret. You buy property with a view to make gains. However, you also run the risk of losing if you own an asset. Because India's real estate provides great investment opportunity, non-residents are often willing to put more and more of their money here. At the same time, they have to make sure their investments in the country of their birth remains safe. All the instances of relatives snatching properties of their NRI kith are sure to make them apprehensive. Purely for this reason, many of them take the help of professionals to take care their properties. Even in such a scenario, an NRI investor will have to exercise caution.

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Do I leave it to relatives?

Our first thoughts go to our relatives when we start thinking about who could take care of our property in our absence. These are the people we trust, who would take care of the business without charging any money. However, this can be a tricky situation. In case your relatives decide to snatch from you what is legally yours, you could fight a legal battle against them.

Under Section 5 of the Specific Relief Act, 1963, a victim of a fraud can claim his property back. Section 6 of the Act says that the recovery will take place if you are able to prove your previous possession and the subsequent dispossession. Additionally, you could initiate actions against the offenders under Section 145 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

However, there would be much bad blood in the entire process. You run the risk of losing your dear asset and even dearer kith and kin. This move of protecting your property is best avoided.

A tenant is a safe bet, then?

Renting out your property could be one way of guarding your property without involving your relatives. However, this safe route is not without flaws. According to the provisions the Limitation Act, 1963, a squatter – who could be a tenant – can acquire legal rights over the property in case an owner does not stake his claim over his property for 12 years. To claim his ownership, this squatter has to prove that his occupancy of the property has been uninterrupted for the entire period.

Now, in case the property is rented out:

*It would be great if you could visit your property from time to time and keep a tab on things. However, this is easier said than done. It is here you could seek a little assistance from your friends and relatives who happen to be living in the city. They could occasionally visit the site and report to you any untoward occurrences, if there are any.

*Do not keep the same tenant for a long period for your own safety, even if this good tenant has been regular with his monthly payments and has been taking good care of your property.

What about caretakers?

In case you have been finding it difficult to get a tenant, you could also hire a caretaker to maintain the property. If things go bad and this caretaker turns into a squatter, he would find it quite hard to claim ownership. Giving its verdict in the Maria Margadia Sequeria versus Erasmo Jack De Sequeria case in 2012, the Supreme Court held that “a caretaker, watchman or servant can never acquire an interest in the property irrespective of his long possession”. “The caretaker or servant has to give possession forthwith on demand,” the apex court ruled.

Then there are also service providers that take care of your property for you and charge you accordingly. This happens to be one the most hassle-free ways to manage your estate. However, do create a legal caretaker agreement in case you are going for this option.

In any adverse circumstance, the documents that prove your ownership of the property will help you. However, you would rather prevent than cure, would you not

Also read: How your Home Loan Eligibility is Decided?

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