Photo of Sandeep Dave

Partner in the Real Estate Team at the Mumbai office of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas. Sandeep advises developers, investors and large corporates on core conveyancing and real estate matters. He can be reached at sandeep.dave@cyrilshroff.com.

2017 is upon us, but many readers seem to have missed some very important and progressive changes to the Maharashtra Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948 (Act) made last year on 1 January 2016! Two sections (63, and 63-1A) of the Act govern the ability to sell and buy agricultural lands (AL) for non-agricultural (NA) use.

Here is a comparative note on the pre-amendment and post-amendment law under Section 63-1A affecting AL bought for NA bona fide industrial use. Continue Reading Using Agricultural Lands for Non-Agricultural Purposes in Maharashtra – Important 2016 Amendments

Money oils the wheels of commerce.

Since the 1970s, high denomination notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 had become the usual legal tender in India: inflation had virtually made the lower denomination notes “loose change”! The Reserve Bank of India Annual Report 2015-16, noted that as at end-March 2016, these notes together accounted for 86.4% of the total value of banknotes in circulation[1].

Historically, India has been a high-tax jurisdiction, weighted down by the “license-and-tax” raj (an elaborate system of regulations and licences, discretionary permissions and consents, promoting crony capitalism and red tape). India continues to be ranked high in corruption[2], and relatively low in competition[3]. It is widely perceived that citizens resorted to their own means to counter this system: under-and-over invoicing deals, incurring fictitious expenses, relying on money laundering and hawala schemes (informal money transfer schemes outside formal financial channels). Tax-evaded monies began to be stored in non-Rupee form, and it is alleged that the two biggest beneficiaries were gold and real estate, with the residue parked in foreign currencies. Counterfeit and fake currency, with cross-border connotations, added to the pain.

Especially in the real estate sector, news reports abounded about builders paying bribes to obtain approvals to commence, continue and complete construction; unaccounted cash being paid to buy agricultural lands; speed money paid to update land records; builders demanding “top-up” monies from flat and office buyers, and rooms-full of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes found in search and seizure raids[4]. All this has given a bad reputation to the real estate sector. Such reports, coupled with some builders acting as if “they were beyond the law” (by including absurd clauses in sale documents, causing unjustifiable delays in completing projects, and delivering poor construction quality) primed the climate for regulating “unaccounted money” in real estate. The recently enacted Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act 2016 (RERA), and the recently amended Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016,[5] are steps in this direction. The introduction of a national Goods and Service Tax (GST) in India from April 2017 will also add a fillip.

The Indian government has since banned Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 denomination notes from midnight November 8, 2016.

With this background, what will demonetisation mean for the real estate sector in the next few years? We venture some thoughts below. Continue Reading Demonetisation in India and Real Estate

Real estate cannot be lost or stolen, nor can it be carried away. Purchased with common sense, paid for in full, and managed with reasonable care, it is about the safest investment in the world.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

The real estate sector is the backbone of the Indian economy, as it largely contributes to its growth. But despite its major influence, it has always been disorganised, inefficient and lacked transparency, which has to a degree diminished stakeholder confidence in real estate. To address this, change in legislation as well as implementation of a specialised regulator was critical to bring uniformity and transparency in the relevant laws governing this sector.

The Government of India enacted the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 (Act) on May 1, 2016, inter alia, to address any shortcomings and overcome the difficulties surrounding this sector. It aims to ensure transparency, accountability, standardisation and consistency by regulating the sale of real estate and timely completion of projects. Continue Reading Real Estate (Regulation And Development) Act, 2016