NRI Real Estate and Property Investment in India
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Protection of Property- Prime Concern for NRIs
Monday, January 05, 2009

Many Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) invest in real estate back home. Most see it as a commercial activity while also a way to stay in touch with their national identity. However, they face enormous challenges when their holdings or their ancestral property has been illegally grabbed, occupied or confiscated by relatives, friends or agents.  “My property experience in India can put any horror film to shame,” said Yaqub Ali, an expatriate in Jeddah from the Guntur and Ranga Reddy districts of Andhra Pradesh, India.   “The illegal occupiers refused to vacate my l???nd. I was brutally beaten when I visited India on vacation. My wife was also harassed and pushed out from her ancestral home illegally which was grabbed by neighbors,” he said.  The Telangana and Andhra districts in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh are real estate havens with land costing up to Rs50 to 80 lakh per acre sold privately.

It may indeed not be easy for an individual or a corporate entity to manage their properties from abroad, especially when the same turns into a painful venture. Media reports say that for over two decades, hundreds and thousands of NRIs have been struggling in vain to recover their properties in India. Often insufficient inspection of the relevant property documents results in them being duped by agents and estate developers.
A lack of professional guidance and knowledge of laws in India makes the situation even worse. “We are not able to take care of our properties because of a lack of time, awareness and proper legal support. There is a need to formulate comprehensive central guidelines for help and we should be duly informed of the necessary steps before our property deals are legally finalized,” said engineer Abdul Wahab Siddiqui, who has a building and land in the Masab Tank area in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh. The locality is famous for its skyrocketing commercial and residential property rates. 

“When I become frustrated by the hard time that my tenants give me I often feel like selling all my property,” he said.  Siddiqui has lived in the Kingdom for 30 years. Like other unsuspecting NRIs, he said he has been victimized by fraudulent property dealers.
For many expatriates like Siddiqui, especially those in the Gulf, investments in real estate can prove to be lucrative or the only means of income, once they return back home as permanent residents.  But in case of a property scam, they face a disadvantage as they are not able to contest court cases in India, which adds to the overall uncertainty. “On request from many NRIs in the Middle East, Europe and Asia, we have devised a way to resolve property issues related to land disputes and litigation problems of the NRIs within the parameters of the Indian legal system,” said Basha Nawaz Khan, an international legal expert.

“The BNK International law firm in Hyderabad has started a separate division for non-resident Indians for the legal protection, caretaking and safeguard of their movable and immovable properties,” said Khan, adding that the legal services, available only in Hyderabad now, will soon be provided throughout India as well. “Legal services are required when one buys a house, sets up a business, acquires an office, incorporates a company, intends to marry or divorce, has property disputes with tenants in residential or commercial property, or is in need of a special/general power of attorney. It’s not feasible to hire a lawyer in India while you are thousands of miles away,” he said.   He said such a consultation facility makes it unnecessary for one to make frequent trips to pursue or defend an ongoing prolonged litigation which can be highly expensive and tiresome.  NRIs have inarguably played a very important role in transforming the Indian real estate market. Recent reports estimate the value of NRI investment to have increased by up to a quarter in six months. With the opening up of the Indian economy, developers and financiers are making all efforts to tempt overseas buyers with fancy plots and housing schemes.  

“Our legal firm provides services which will enable one to understand the various multifaceted aspects and difficulties involved, such as, the interaction with various government agencies and other entities related to property, and understanding the needs and important negotiations,” said Khan. He said a clear understanding of real estate laws, which include laws related to acquisition, takeovers, mergers, sales, purchase, joint ventures, developments, settlement of disputes, legal verification/title identifications, tile search, etc., is imperative when dealing in real estate. Given the increase in frauds such as land grabbing, cheating, bluffing, illegal transfer of properties and life-threatening situations in India, firms like the BNK international firm may prove to be helpful.

“The professional team of the firm aims at legally protecting the interest of the NRIs,” noted Khan. In cases when the tenants squat on property which is let out to them on lease or rent, Khan said a team of lawyers undertake curative actions to safeguard the interests of the owners, who “commonly are individuals who have migrated to foreign countries.” 

He said another problem-prone area is the misuse of the Power of Attorney (POA) which is executed in the favor of near or dear ones when individuals leave the country for abroad.


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