encroached propertyA friend of mine is in the process of building a home on a BDA allotted site that he acquired a while back. However, he was a bit hesitant to get the work started and was constantly in talks with his lawyer to check on the antecedents of the property. He wanted to make sure that the property title was clear despite, having a clear transaction record for the same. The fear that his property may be encroaching in some way kept him from beginning the construction.

His worry came from the recent HRBR Layout case where close to 150 residents of the 1st Block were served eviction notices. It was said that their homes encroached on a tank bed. This came to light almost three decades after the layout was allotted and homes built. Of course, there is a stay order on the eviction now, but it has kept several families on tenterhooks.

I got in touch with a good friend of mine – Suhasini Rao, a lawyer focusing on public law and policy. She broke down the concept of encroachment and made it easier to understand. She answered basic questions that may help allay fears.

Meaning of land encroachment:

Land encroachment is a situation where property is used (either through building upon it or by taking advantage of the land through agriculture or any other beneficial medium) without legal permission or consent of the owner of such property.

Suhasini makes things easier to understand with the following examples:

Imagine three plots of land where the corner plot has an old bungalow on it. The other two plots are empty. Now, an apartment building is being built on the site of an old bungalow. The developer may have purchased the bungalow and its plot, demolish the old structure and will now proceed to build the new apartment building. During the construction, an additional 10 foot wide strip of land of the adjoining plot is incorporated into the parking area of the new building. This use of the additional land from the adjoining plot without permission from the owner of the plot would amount to encroachment.

Another example of encroachment is the many slums and makeshift colonies that dot our cities. Often, these slum-dwellings are made on public (also known as Government-owned) lands in parks, on pavements, derelict government buildings, open spaces and common grounds, abandoned warehouses, along waterfronts, etc.

Rules in regard to encroachment:

  • Encroachment of land, especially public land, is regulated through many different legislations. In Karnataka, the Karnataka Public Land Corporation Limited is the Government-owned Company entrusted with the maintenance of public immovable property. Effectively, this Company acquires and utilizes land for the Govt. of Karnataka and various other government-bodies and therefore, is closely associated in addressing issues of encroachment.
  • It is good to conduct a thorough background check of the property before dealing with it in any manner. This background check should include a review of the title of the property (also known as a ‘title search’), a review of the land revenue records of the property, a review of the property tax records of the property and also, a status check on the encroachment of the property, if any. Remember to check whether the property is subject to any litigation.
  • Encroachment of public spaces (such as footpaths, public gardens, etc.) is usually dealt with by clearing the area and removing all encroachments. Sometimes, if the matter is of a serious nature with a heavy impact on human life, a different course of action can be taken by the authorities by legalizing such encroachment.
  • Encroachment of private property is usually dealt with by owners of properties that have been encroached upon through various means such as court-ordered removal of encroachment, or the payment of compensation for damages to property. Such instances are often cases of trespass or unauthorized occupation of property.

How to check for possible encroachment before buying a property:

While buying, renting or otherwise dealing with any immovable property such as land, buildings, apartments, etc., it is absolutely vital to check the legal status of that property. To know whether the property is a part of an encroached public land or not, one can approach the KPLCL office to see the status of the property.

As a consumer, you have the following rights:

  1. Always be well-informed about the property you are dealing with. This involves carrying out an extensive check of the property’s records and titles.
  2. Approach relevant authorities – local land revenue office, BBMP, KPLCL, etc. to understand the status of the property. You can ask for copies of documents relating to the property that help clarify the status of the property.
  3. In case of encroachment, approach the Tahsildar of the area within which the property is located to seek information about the status of the property and actions to be taken against encroachment, if any. Information of actions to be taken against encroachment can also be obtained from the BBMP office.

While encroachment is a reality in some cases, as a consumer you have every right to make use of available facilities and ensure that your property is in the clear. Sound legal counsel is also necessary.

TAKE-AWAYS

  1. Encroachment of public land is governed by several legislations.
  2. You may approach relevant local authorities to check the status of your land.
  3. The Karnataka Public Land Corporation Limited is where you may go to check on the status of your land.
  4. The Tahsildar of your locality is the main authority to approach.

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