A Layman’s Guide to Determine the Authenticity of Land Documents
After months and sometimes years of search, buyers identify plots or lands that fit their need and budget.
Even while the Buyer is happy with the property , it’s location and price, the authenticity of the Documents and Genuineness of the Seller are two issues about which there may be nagging doubts in the minds of the buyer. This is so because of the many reports of wrong doings in the field of Real Estate transactions. So, before finalising the deal, its always better to get clarity on these two issues. This Article is an attempt to shed light on some of the issues that are involved in the process.
Earlier Procedures in Registration gave scope for many wrong doings
If we observe, most of the irregularities reported are in documents registered decades ago. There are many reasons for this. Earlier, it was enough if the seller alone signs the sale document. The power of attorney can be executed anywhere in Tamilnadu. Also affixing photos, taking videos of the process were not the procedures then. These loopholes provided opportunities for the fraudsters. Most of the loopholes have been plugged now. However even if the documents have changed hands in the last few years , one should ensure that the earlier transactions were genuine.
Legal Opinion is not the only thing
Buyers hand over the documents to a known Advocate, as soon as they get a set of the papers. This is fine. Getting an Advocate’s opinion is one of the important steps in the process. But, that alone will not be enough to clear the air on the issue of authenticity of the documents or the genuineness of the Seller. The Legal Opinion will focus on the flow of the title deed. An Advocate will peruse the documents submitted before him and give his opinion. The Legal Opinion usually contains the following words or words with similar meaning: “I have perused the documents submitted before me…”. This means the Opinion is based on the documents submitted only.There may be many incriminating facts that may not affect the Title of the property, but are very material to the issue. These facts may not be visible in the documents submitted. This article is about some of those things and more.
The issues we intend to highlight are
1.The authenticity of the document.
2.Genuineness of the Seller
3.Common Defects in the documents
4.Litigation Pending or Probable
5.Issues in buying Bank Attachment Properties or Mortgaged Properties
6.Acquisition Related Issues7.Restricted or Prohibited Properties
There is no simple method to go about
Unfortunately, there is no one foolproof method. Neither there is any single place where one can visit and get all the info required. This is because the Documents submitted originate from different Offices. The Sale Deed, Parent Deed, Encumbrance Certificate etc…originate from Sub Registrar’s Office. The Taluk Office issues Patta. Chitta is issued by VAO. FMB and Village Maps by Survey Department. So, it involves some leg work to get the required clarifications/info. It may appear a tall task. But, yes, still, it can be done.
Field Inquiry has no substitute
The first thing one should do after identifying the plot is to visit the site. Better if the Buyer takes a few persons with him/her. He/She should take the plot or layout sketch. He/She should spend some time on the site.
See that the Property you are seeing is the same as marked in the Sketch.
If possible open a dialogue with the neighbours or any passersby or onlookers. This may provide some valuable info about the property.
The buyer would have visited the place of the Seller at least once. Try to gather more info about the Seller from sources in that area. If any negative info is confirmed at this stage, the proposal can be dropped then itself.
Info collected at the site or elsewhere should be verified with the Seller. For eg, if someone says the place has some court cases pending, the issue can be clarified with the Seller. If it is true we can drop the proposal at the outset. It should be borne in mind that there may be negative news spread by some vested interests.
If the Plot has no boundary markings, insists on the boundaries to be marked by the Seller. If there is no fencing or compound wall it’s better if the fencing is done.
1.Double Documents and Duplicate Documents.
Double Documents and Duplicate Documents are not one and the same. Sometimes Double Document emerge after the Original went missing. After filing the police complaint and giving Ads in the Newspapers, the Seller sometimes would sell the Property with the help of Copy of Document.There may be occasions when the Seller gets back the lost Original. He may decide to sell the property once again with the help of this lost original.Mortgaged properties or properties in judicial custody also give scope for Double Documents. Owners of such properties may also sometimes indulge in this practice. They may Settle the property in favour of someone close to them, create the Settlement Deed and sell it. In such cases, two persons will hold on to the same property documents. Both Originals.
Impersonation is generally associated with Duplicate Documents, but not always.As a matter of precaution doubt the Authenticity of a Document when it lies unattended for longCreating a Duplicate Document and Impersonation are outright criminal activities. Many times the negligence and irresponsibility of the property owner allow this to happen. People would have purchased plots/ lands and left them unattended for many years. There won’t be any fencing or compound wall in the plot. Not even border stones laid. There will be wild growth all around, even on the layout roads. This may be because the value of the properties were very low those days. Anyhow, it is an invitation for unscrupulous elements to play mischief.The owner of such a neglected property may die without leaving any legal heir. The legal heirs may not be aware of the existence of the property. Or, the owner may be out of the city/country for long. Situations like this are ideal for criminals to enter the scene.Till the info reaches a fraudster, the property will remain in the same state for years.But, the info about the property will spread slowly but surely. Once the fraudsters know of it, they will wait for the copy of the documents to reach them. Once they get it, they prepare a set of duplicate documents and ready up a ‘Seller’. There may be many intermediate steps before the property is floated in the market for ‘sale’. The fraudsters will work on it for months or years to encash it. Sometimes they may get the original itself. This can happen only with those who have access to the property owner. In which case the document is original and the ‘seller’ is fake. This is impersonation. Clarity about such properties in the midsts of residences can be found out by visiting the sites and making inquiries. This may not be possible about a property that is remotely located. A careful perusal of the documents will reveal many things. For this, some basic understanding of the history of the Registration process in Tamilnadu will be of much help. Because, the fraudsters, however clever they may be, may leave some trail of mistakes in any one of these.
2. Genuineness of the Seller
Apart from impersonation by outsiders, inside a family there may be attempts , to make some one other than the actual owner to sign the documents. It may be brother or sister etc..The reason may be many. The person may be out of the place, or sick or many more. This may give rise to problems in the future. Check the Id proof thoroughly.
3.Common Errors in the Documents
In Tamilnadu, the Land Registry was updated and UDR patta issued in the 1980s. Many clerical errors would have crept into the Data. Even otherwise, at the time of Registration, there can be many errors that may creep into the documents. Some clerical errors commonly found are in Father’s name, Sub-division number, etc… These mistakes can be detected if one takes time and go through the documents carefully. Corrections should be carried out before executing the Deed.
Unfortunately, any litigation in a court of law will not find a mention in the EC. So also, Oral Agreements/Arrangements, Unregistered documents, acquisition proceedings, etc… Dues payable like Tax arrears also won’t find a place in the EC. Also, one can not rule out the possibility of the existence of any Legal Heirs who may not find their names in the official documents. These things can be cleared only through field inquiry.
5.Bank Attachment Properties or Mortgaged properties.
Now a days Banks have the powers to take over propeties of Borrowers who have defaulted. Those properties are Auctioned. Sometimes even before the Auction the properties come for sale through Agents who collaborate with the banks. We hear of instances when the the borrower has gone to court against the auction at a later stage.This may be on many counts. So, it’s better to consult an Advocate.before proceeding to participate in an Auction.Also, it should be borne in mind that earlier, the Properties Mortgaged to the Banks as collateral security were NOT registered in the Sub-Registrar’s office. As a result the Encumbrance Certificate will not show the entry.. This also gave scope for creating Duplicate Documents.
Any proposal for acquisition of Land by the Government also will not find a place in the EC. To know about Land Acquisition proceedings if any, visit the concerned Departments. For eg. any proposal to expand a Highway will be available in the concerned office of the Highway.
7. Restricted Plots/Lands
These are plots/lands which are Government Lands or on which there are restrictions.They are:1)Plots/Lands near Water Bodies.2)Poromboke Lands3)DC lands or Annatheenams4)OSR lands or plots allotted for shops or for any specific purposes in a Layout5) Plots Blocking Access to the Surrounding Lands/Plots6)Lands affected by the Land Ceiling Acts7)Plots Under High Tension Line….Mostly in cases of Properties belonging to the above categories, the Government Departments may not be alert or some officials may be involved for the properties to come to the market for sale.. Take the case of Poromboke Lands. Selling Poromboke land can happen only after creating the necessary documents. First, the Patta may be issued against the Rules. Then the property may be settled in favour of the Seller’s close ones. With Patta and Settlement Deed, the document will be sold as a genuine one. In such cases, both the document and the person are ‘genuine’. But, the property is illegitimate. Of late, such methods are very very rare, thanks to the newer and newer regulations introduced. Similarly DC lands or Panchami Lands would have changed hands many times before it lands with a gullible buyer. There are many such properties in Chengalpattu and other districts. Demands are still pending for identifying the Panchami Lands and restoring their status.The status of such lands can be found out from the SLR Records.
In this connection, we would like to emphasis Meeting the Village Administrative Officer (VAO). He will give more historic background to the property.
To sum up
1)As mentioned in the first part of the article, the most important step is to visit the Site. Try to do fencing or put border stones in the plot. This is to be done with the knowledge of the Seller/Owner. There should not be any objection from the neighbouring plot owners or others, if there are no issues. 2)Peruse the documents carefully.For this, some basic understanding of the history of the Registration process in Tamilnadu will be of much help. Because, the fraudsters, however clever they may be, may leave some trail of mistakes in any one of these.For example, the earlier documents, especially before the 1990s, will have only one signature, that of the seller. The jurisdictional Sub-Registrar office for many properties would have changed more than once in the past 20 to 30 years. This is so because new Sub-Registrar offices have come up. Find out the correctness, by visiting the SRO mentioned in the document. Photos of buyer and seller are compulsorily affixed only from 2005. The Chapa or the Stamp of the SRO is made in Steel. Over the years, by wear and tear, impressions of these stamps will not be sharp. But, a duplicate document may have a clear impression. This is so because fraudsters will use brand new Rubber Stamp. 3)Any proposal for acquisition of Land also will not find a place in the EC.This and more can be found out by a meeting with the Village Administrative Officer.To be more specific to know about any Land Acquisition issue, visit the concerned Departments. For eg. any proposal to expand a Highway will be available in the concerned office of the Highway. 4)Meeting theVillage Administrative Officer (VAO) is of the most important step. He will give more historic background to the property. Off the record info about the property may also be available with VAO. 5)Check the land records with the registration office. Do a thorough search of document for that land parcel in all the registry and related offices having jurisdiction over the property.6)Thoroughly verify the Proof of Identification provided by the Seller. 7)There are some individuals or organisations to do this job. It’s better to entrust the job to such a professional qualified in property registration cases for a thorough study to check a clear title.
Land is one of the best investment options, but with some risks! Be aware of the risks!Wish you all the best!