Understanding Land Encroachment
Land encroachment, or the unauthorized use of land, is becoming a growing concern in India, especially in rapidly urbanizing areas. It's more than just losing a few square feet of land—it's a serious violation of property rights, jeopardizing hard-earned assets and the peace of mind of landowners.
A 2018 study by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) highlighted the severity of the issue, revealing that approximately 2.5% to 3% of India's total land area—around 6.25 to 7.5 lakh hectares—is affected by encroachment. Surprisingly, this problem is more prevalent in rural areas, particularly in states with high population density and elevated poverty levels.
Types of land encroachment
Public lands, from forests to wetlands, are often targets for folks eyeing them for commercial or residential purposes. Even government-owned areas like railway land and irrigation spaces face frequent encroachments. The saga continues for common lands too, with village commons and grazing areas not spared, falling victim to powerful individuals or groups. And if you think private lands in urban and peri-urban regions are safe, think again—they’re part of the encroachment conundrum, adding another layer to this tangled issue.
In this blog series, we'll delve into different aspects of land encroachment. But first and foremost, let's tackle the critical question: how do you prevent your land from being encroached in the first place?
Prevention: The Key Steps
1. Know your land's boundaries:
From the moment you get an ownership of land, make sure you are crystal clear about the land boundaries. Precision is key – you need to know precisely where your property begins and ends. Our top recommendation? Opt for a professional survey to establish a clear demarcation. With the advent of GPS survey and drone surveys, the process of surveying and delivery of survey maps has become faster and more accurate. In general, you can expect to pay between ₹5,000 and ₹20,000 for a GPS survey of a small plot of land. For larger or more complex land parcels, the cost may be higher. As an outcome of this surveying endeavor, you'll be left with tangible ground marks or stones that serve as clear indicators of your land's boundaries.
2. Build a document trail:
In the Indian real estate landscape, where a conclusive titling system is yet to find its place, the onus of proving your right to ownership squarely rests on your shoulders. This necessitates an elevated level of vigilance in maintaining a meticulous document trail. In essence, it calls for creating a comprehensive file that incorporates all records substantiating your ownership or connection to the land. While these records typically stem from State Registration and Revenue departments, don't underestimate the significance of records from local city authorities such as the Municipality and Development Authority. For a concise overview of pivotal records, explore our Land Journal.
The ideal approach is to store these records in both physical and digital formats, covering land records, deeds, and survey reports, all housed in a secure location. Any modifications or additions to these records should be promptly documented.
The costs associated with procuring these land records can vary significantly from state to state. Depending on the state, a "property pack" containing these records may range from as low as ₹500 to upwards of ₹5,000.
Strengthen the robustness of your records by maintaining evidence of recurring payments. Preserve receipts for property tax payments and consider documenting the history of electricity connections and bill payments. While these may not serve as direct proof of land ownership, they contribute an extra layer of security. It's imperative to consistently update this paper trail within the dedicated folder you maintain for your land.
Given that property taxes fluctuate based on the city, state, and land area, it's important to factor this into your considerations. If your land parcel lacks an electricity connection, it's highly advisable to acquire one. The cost of obtaining an electricity connection varies but generally falls within the thousands, not the lakhs. Additionally, once you have an electricity connection, depending on your usage, there might be a monthly expense to factor into your budget.
Now that you've got the lay of the land and documentation, the subsequent crucial step is to physically secure it. Let's delve into the specifics of fortifying that piece of earth you proudly call your own.
3. Secure your land:
Erect a fence or a wall makes it harder for encroachers to trespass. The boundary fence or wall can be constructed with a barbed wire, precast concrete slabs or bricks. The choice of fence materials depends on your appetite to invest and the risk of encroachment in the vicinity area. Needless to say that higher the risk of encroachment, the better and sturdier material should be used for fencing construction. It is usually recommended to do the fencing at a height of at least 5’ to 6’.
- Barbed wire fencing: This type of fencing usually costs ₹15- ₹30 per feet of the material and cost of installation additional ₹8-15 per feet. In some places, barbed wire is sold by weight as well.
- Precast concrete wall boundary: Recently this kind of construction has picked up because it the material is sturdier and execution is faster. The cost of this type of boundary is ₹50-80 per square feet or between ₹8-13 per feet of length for a 6 feet high wall.
- Brick wall boundary: As the name indicates, the building material here is brick and cement. From the strength perspective this is the most sturdy of all. In general, you can expect to pay between ₹60-80 per square foot for a 5” brick wall and ₹100-120 per square foot for a 9” brick wall.
To put the three fencing options in perspective, fencing a 500 sq yard plot (4500 sqft, 45’ X 100’ dimensions), would roughly cost ₹15,000 for barbed wire, ₹1,05,000 for precast concrete wall and ₹2,10,000 for 9” brick wall 6’ high construction.
And, of course, let's not overlook the final touch – don't forget to put up a name board. It could be a fancy, eye-catching one (think along the lines of the stylish example on the left), or a simple, understated design will do just fine.
4. Remote and onsite monitoring your land:
Ensuring the security of your land involves smart strategies, and remote and onsite monitoring play a pivotal role in this game.
- CCTV surveillance: Invest in a CCTV surveillance system connected to the internet, allowing you to monitor your land in real-time from the comfort of your living room couch. Like the previous elements, the cost of CCTV installation varies based on the land's size and the specifications of the surveillance systems employed. Prices start at ₹25,000 and can extend into lakhs.
- Appointing a security guard for site patrol: While the aforementioned steps serve as useful preventive measures against land encroachment, nothing beats actual onsite monitoring. The cost associated with appointing a security guard depends on the intensity of the patrol. A once-a-week patrol is much more budget-friendly compared to stationing a security guard on-site full-time. The former may cost around ₹5,000, while the latter typically ranges around ₹20,000 per month.
And, of course, you have the flexibility to combine both approaches for comprehensive security coverage.
Breaking down the costs:
Let's crunch the numbers for our 500 sq yard example site, outlining the upfront expenses and ongoing monthly costs:
Is it worth the investment?
Absolutely! Consider these preventive measures as a prudent investment, representing only a fraction of the costs associated with reclaiming encroached land (a topic we'll delve into in our upcoming second blog). Even paying 15,000 rupees per month for a security guard is only 1.8L annually for land worth crores. Think of it as 1.8% maintenance fee. Similar fees would be incurred for transacting and maintaining equity portfolio.
Do I need need all these measures?
Yes, without a doubt. Steps 1 and 2 are the bare minimum, non-negotiable essentials. The necessity of Steps 3 and 4 depends on the specific context, location, and size of the land. You have the flexibility to decide whether to pursue them or not. As a general rule, higher encroachment risk calls for more robust preventive measures.
Can Landeed assist you?
At Landeed, we understand the challenges presented by land encroachment and passionately advocate for proactive preventive measures. As a result, we've curated a comprehensive Property Protection Plan—a subject we'll delve into in another installment of this blog series. Stay tuned for more!