Whether in economics or accountancy, this title is a cliché. An economy based on shortages is the North-bound driver of prices. Next come litigation and lawlessness. Some 70% of the cases in our high courts relate to property; as do many murders and acts of violence. Land-grabbing, squatting, benami transactions, black money, slumlords, encroachments, are words that fall under the head ‘property-related disputes’.
Property documents do not come in ‘one-size-fits-all’. Divya, my wife, breathes this legal domain. Prior to starting our venture, we had a talk, only to realise how much there is to learn. We picked cases that cause the most unease.
You be the judge.
1) Mr B buys property from Mr S. Full payment made, he takes possession of the property. Huge back taxes are due. The sub-registrar’s job is to collect stamp duty. He does. Mr S does not dip into his pocket. What now?
2) A person of Indian origin (PIO) buys a flat in Nashik. The seller advises him to avoid stamp duty, asking him to take full possession of the flat. On his return, the man finds someone else in occupation, physically and legally, with duly executed registration. He goes to court; does not make the new owner a defendant. The seller vanishes. Our man gets an ex-parte (uncontested) order for return of his money; of course, for only the ‘white’ component. How safe is he?
3) A leave-and-licence agreement, duly registered, is executed by the licensee family head. He dies. What is the position of his family?
4) A leave-and-licence agreement, duly registered, is executed. The licensor (owner) dies. What is the position of the licensee and his family?
5) A man buys property with eyes wide open. There is a lessee on the property. The lease agreement says that if the lessor sells the property, the lease will come to an end. The lessee refuses to move out. What are the options available to the new owner?
6) Recent reports talk of the courts asking errant builders to pay back money given by prospective buyers. Most orders are from the high courts, carrying a tinge of equity. One builder claims, honestly, that he is broke and has no money to pay. Can he be held for contempt and jailed?
The subject is vast and the possibilities endless. We try to explain each case as best we can; realising that each reader will have more queries.
In case 1, the authorities will collect from whomever they can. The law says that the seller is liable for past dues and that the buyer can recover them from Mr S. If both do not pay, the property can be attached; a loss to the buyer. A thorough title search, by an advocate, would have helped ensure clarity.
In case 2, we told the PIO that he deserved neither sympathy nor relief for trying to fleece the government; and, even if he got the order, he would never be able to execute it. He carried abroad a piece of paper, without seeing a paisa. The irony is that our introducing friend had loaned the PIO money; returnable on settlement!
Cases 3 and 4 need an understanding of licence mechanics. A licence is between two parties, both living and competent. It exists so long as both parties are in existence. Otherwise, unless so specified, the licence may come to an end.
‘Once-a-lessee-always-a-lessee’, confers many rights. The new purchaser had jumped in with his eyes wide shut. He was aware of the ‘encumbrance’. If he had shown the lease deed to a lawyer, he would have been told it was faulty, ab initio.
Case 6 type examples multiply daily. A competent lawyer would have got a bank guarantee to cover construction costs. But when one is chasing golden rainbows, lawyer’s fees are such massive irritants.