Chennai Properties

How to Verify the Authenticity of the Documents of a Plot/Land

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A Guide to Understand the Issues Plaguing Property Transactions

After months and sometimes years of search, buyers identify plots or lands that fit their need and budget. At the same time, we constantly hear of reports of frauds in real estate transactions. This creates nagging doubts in the minds of buyers about the authenticity of the documents and also the seller. 

Legal Opinion

As soon as a Plot/Land is identified, buyers hand over the documents to a known and reputed Advocate. 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.
 
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 normally contains the following words: “I have perused the documents submitted before me…” So the buyer should produce before the Advocate all the information/documents required. Then only the Advocate will be in a position to pronounce the correct position. For this, the buyer should take some efforts.
This may look beyond the capability of many. But it is not so. With some patient efforts, one can get the correct picture of the documents.

Knowledge of Law is not essential

Most buyers do not know about property laws. But, that is not an issue. Because,this is not about law but about the procedures and practices in Government Offices dealing with property matters. And it’s also about the tricks employed by fraudsters.
 

The main issues a buyer should be concerned are:

1.The authenticity of the document
2.Genuineness of the Seller
3.Defects in the documents
4.Litigation Pending or Probable
5.Acquisition Notices
 

How to Go About

Unfortunately, there is no one foolproof method to detect these issues. Neither there is one single place where one can visit and get the things done.
 
This is because the Documents submitted originate from different Offices. Sale Deed, Parent Deed, EC etc originate from SROs. Taluk Office issues Patta. Chitta by VAO. And 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. For this, one has to adopt a combination of tips and methods.

Field Inquiry has no substitute

a)The first thing one should do after identifying the plot is to visit the site along with one or two friends or relatives. He should take the copy of the documents including the plot or layout sketch. He/She should spend some time on the site. If possible open a dialogue with the neighbours or any passersby or onlookers. This may provide some valuable info about the proprety.
b)Then, after the initial doubts are cleared, insist on getting the plot fenced or marked by the Seller.
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 deliberately spread by some vested interests.
c)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.

Duplicate Documents and Impersonations

Doubt the Authenticity of a Document when it lies unattended for long

Creating 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.
 
Such things can be easily found out by the Site Visit.
 
Those close to the property owner or those who live near the property will know of it.
 
 

Enter the Fraudsters

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.

Earlier Procedures in Registration gave scope for such frauds

If we observe, most of the irregularities reported are in documents registered decades ago. There are many reasons for this. Earlier it is 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 have provided opportunities for the fraudsters. 
 
It should be mentioned here, that one should take extra care if there is a Copy of the Document, a Settlement Deed, or a Power of Attorney, among the set of documents for the plot.
 

Restricted Plots/Lands

These are plots/lands which are Government Lands or on which there are restrictions. They are:
Plots/Lands in Water Bodies
Poromboke Land
Panchami or DC lands
Plots/Lands in OSR lands or Parks or Playgrounds in a Layout
Plots/Lands in the proposed road alignments
Plots Blocking Access to the Surrounding Lands
Plots/Lands in Lands affected by the Land Ceiling Acts
Plots Under High Tension Line
Take the case of Poromboke Lands. Selling Poromboke land can happen only after creating the necessary documents.  In such cases, can’t rule out the connivance of officials. First, get the Patta.. Then settle the property in favour  of their 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.

Double Documents

Double Documents and Duplicate Documents are not one and the same

Double Documents come into play sometimes with the involvement of the property owner.
It happens thus. Some promoters of layouts would have sold the same plot to more than one buyer. In those days, the buyers after having paid the full amount, would not have collected the documents from the Promoters. They would have bought it on instalment or for a very small sum. The amount they paid is a pittance compared to the present value of the property.
The promoter may not know or remember whether he has collected money for the plot. In such cases, sales take place and a new Original document is created.
 
Yet another way Double Document emerges is after the Original may be missing. After filing the police complaint and 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 that are mortgaged, or facing court cases 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. Thus two persons will hold on to the same property documents.
 
Therefore, one should take more care if there is a Copy of the Document, a Settlement Deed, or a Power of Attorney.

Impersonation

Impersonation is generally associated with Duplicate Documents. In some cases even when the documents are genuine, impersonation takes place. This is when the family members indulge in the impersonation. Sisters or Brothers of owners may do it. The reasons may be many. One should make sure only the right person signs the documents.

This can be done by verifying the Id proof provided by the Seller.

Defects in the Documents

In Tamilnadu, the Land Registry was updated and UDR patta issued in the 1980s. Many clerical errors have crept into the Data Even otherwise, at the time of Registration, there can be many errors that may creep into the documents. Father’s name, Sub-division number, etc.
Also, there may be errors in the document that happened inadvertently during execution.
These mistakes can be easily detected. Corrections should be carried out at the earliest.
 

Pending Litigations and Acquisition Notices

Unfortunately, any pending Litigation may not come to light on scrutiny of the documents.

The Encumbrance Certificate also may not reveal it. 

Any litigation in a court of law, Oral Agreements/Arrangements, Unregistered documents, acquisition proceedings, etc., will not find a place in the EC.

Dues payable like Tax arrears are 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.

Things to do or remember to find out the truth behind the documents and the seller

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)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.
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 the Village 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!

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