Quick checklist to avoid properties on lake encroachments – a Bangalore case study

May 25, 2015 / By  

The fascinating idea of having your home facing a lake keeping you close to nature within the concrete jungle of the city may turn into a nightmare if enough caution is not taken. Recently Bangalore witnessed a major demolition drive of properties to reclaim the encroached land of lake beds by the city corporation known as Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike. The major anti-encroachment drive along the Sarakki Lake in South Bangalore is one of the noted ones. About 35 acres of encroached land is being reclaimed by demolition of about 135 properties. Among them 110 properties are residential while the rest include commercial properties, temples and educational institutions. Many of these properties have been razed leaving the occupants helpless. Few of the occupants claim to have paid property tax and have all approvals in place.

As, most of this situation remains irreversible, future developments along lake beds will now be viewed with caution by homebuyers. It is not new in India to encroach on land around natural features such as lakes, forest land, marshes or wetlands etc. However, inaction and shying away from responsibility by designated authorities allow these encroachments which later cause losses to the occupants of such properties. Under such circumstances homebuyers will definitely have many questions looming in their minds to assure the legality of the property. More so when these lakes are used as unique selling propositions of the projects and demand a price premium of about 15-20%. As such, what is the solution? Unless the local authorities take up the responsibility of proper due diligence of the proposed properties submitted for approvals before giving the approvals, these situations are likely to repeat. However, a buyer can use the following checklist for a basic due diligence of the property.

  1. Due diligence of the certified copies of the registered title deed and encumbrance certificate of the land parcel for clear title of the land.
  2. Check the land use of the land parcel as per the latest master plan approved by development authorities.
  3. Check for approvals or all the environmental clearances from the Ministry of Environment and Forest or any other concerned authority based on the location of the project.
  4. In addition to the above approvals for height, setbacks, water supply, sewerage and electricity board etc must be checked. Also check if the building is being built as per National Building Code standards for safety from fire and other hazards.

Though the government agencies are supposed to check the environmental points while granting permissions, the buyers are better off doing their own due diligence. Multiple government agencies are involved in the approval process, however, there is limited communication between agencies. There is a tendency to give “conditional approvals”, which when reviewed later or have decisions pending from court cases can go against the projects. Therefore projects of the “close to nature” type need to be studied further for their absolute legal status before purchasing. As such the discussed checklist can be a basic guideline to avoid such future hassles.

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