Evicted from a house you thought you owned?

If you hold a de­fec­tive ti­tle and are evicted from the prop­erty, you can re­claim the funds you spent on ren­o­vat­ing the house

HT Estates - - HTESTATES - Su­nil Tyagi

It’s a pe­cu­liar sit­u­a­tion to be in, but in In­dia any­thing is pos­si­ble. What hap­pens if some­one ren­o­vates a prop­erty or con­structs a house and re­alises that the ti­tle of the prop­erty is de­fec­tive? What if the per­son is evicted from the prop­erty by the law­ful owner who has a bet­ter prop­erty ti­tle? In such a sit­u­a­tion, what rights does the per­son (who has made im­prove­ments in the prop­erty) and been evicted, have?

To make it clearer, sup­pose X ac­quires a plot of land under the will ex­e­cuted by his fa­ther. He be­lieves he is the law­ful owner of the prop­erty and con­structs a triple storey build­ing on it. How­ever, he soon dis­cov­ers that the prop­erty be­longs to his pa­ter­nal un­cle and that it was wrongly willed to him by his fa­ther. He is then evicted from the prop­erty. In such a sit­u­a­tion, Section 51 of Trans­fer of Prop­erty Act, 1882, comes into play.

The Act states that in such cir­cum­stances the per­son who has made im­prove­ments in the prop­erty but is now be­ing evicted has al­ter­na­tive rights against the per­son with the bet­ter ti­tle. He has three op­tions:

To pay the es­ti­mated value of the im­prove­ment at the time of evic­tion, or

To se­cure to him the es­ti­mated value of the im­prove­ment at the time of evic­tion, or To of­fer to sell the prop­erty to the per­son be­ing evicted, at the then mar­ket value thereof, ex­clu­sive of im­prove­ments The High Court of Madras in the case of Vi­jay­alak­shmi vs Su­lochana and oth­ers, dated Oc­to­ber 7, 2010, dealt with a case such as this. A plot of land mea­sur­ing 3,600 square feet was sold by KB Pad­man­ab­han (owner) to Su­lochana who was the first buyer vide sale deed dated Au­gust 10, 1966. She and her hus­band lived in a house which was 15 km away from the plot. They had fenced the plot and in­stalled a gate on one side. On Jan­uary 28, 1980, MB Mu­ru­gap­pan, who was the son of the owner, sold the same plot to Vi­jay­alak­shmi. She pur­chased the plot un­aware of any prior sale. Since the ex­e­cu­tion of sale deed dated Jan­uary 28, 1980, the sec­ond pur­chaser and her hus­band con­structed a build­ing on the plot in good faith be­liev­ing them­selves to be the law­ful own­ers.

When Su­lochana dis­cov­ered that a build­ing had been con­structed on the plot by the sec- ond buyer, she ap­proached the court ask­ing it to de­clare her ti­tle to the plot and va­cate it.

T he t r i al c our t de­creed that Vi­jay­alak­shmi, the sec­ond buyer, had to pay Su­lochana the value of the plot along with in­ter­est after which she (Vi­jay­alak­shmi) would have valid ti­tle over the plot of land and the house. Dis­sat­is­fied with the judg­ment, Su­lochana filed an ap­peal be­fore the ap­pel­late court. The ap­pel­late court held that the first buyer was en­ti­tled to re­cov­ery of pos­ses­sion and dec­la­ra­tion of ti­tle. Since the sec­ond buyer had made im­prove­ments t o t he plot by con­struc­tion of the build­ing, Su­lochana had to pay the sec­ond buyer, Vi­jay­alak­shmi, the value of the build­ing con­structed by her.

Then t he s econd buyer, un­happy with the de­cree passed by the first ap­pel­late court, filed a sec­ond ap­peal be­fore the High Court of Madras. After as­sess­ing the facts and go­ing through the doc­u­men­tary ev­i­dence avail­able on record, the court con­cluded that the first buyer was the first pur­chaser of the prop­erty and the pur­chase made by her was true and valid in the eyes of law. The sec­ond buyer was di­rected to hand over the plot along with the build­ing/im­prove­ments to the first buyer. How­ever, the court on the ba­sis of prin­ci­ples of jus­tice, equity and good con­science di­rected the first buyer to pay the value of the build­ing con­structed by the sec­ond buyer on the plot, which was to be de­ter­mined by the court.


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