Land has always been a preferred investment choice among risk-averse buyers, mainly due to the issues related to untimely deliveries in case of under-construction properties and the high cost of ready homes. The sentiment has spiralled up further post the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic has reinforced the popularity of land parcels, especially the agricultural land on the city outskirts. However, before making a decision, knowing the tips governing the sale and purchase of agricultural land is crucial.
According to Sathish, Property Consultant, South Zone Realty Consulting Pvt Ltd, “From eligibility criteria to land ceiling norms, investment rules for agricultural land in India vary across States due to the different geographical topographies. As a buyer, it is essential to stay well-informed about these investment guidelines in your State to avoid legal disputes and losses in future. There have been several instances in the past where the government authorities have seized lands or imposed hefty penalties on buyers owing to the legal discrepancies in the land acquisition process.”
How to buy agricultural land in India in 2023?
Agricultural Land in India: Eligibility criteria for buyers
The guidelines for agricultural land purchase differ from one State to another. While anyone can buy agricultural land in Tamil Nadu, the States of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka entail a few restrictions. For instance, Sections 79 A and 79 B of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act 1961, amended in 2015, restrict the purchase of agricultural land only to a State-based agriculturist or those who have an agricultural background. Besides, the income of the buyer from a non-agriculture occupation should not exceed more than Rs 25 lakh per annum.
The Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs), Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) and foreign citizens also face restrictions with respect to agricultural land purchase. According to the Foreign Exchange Management (Acquisition and transfer of immovable property outside India) Regulations, 2015, NRIs, OCIs and PIOs may acquire any immovable property in India except agricultural land/farmhouse/plantation land. They can only inherit the land from their ancestors.
Agricultural Land in India: State-wise land laws
|Tamil Nadu||Maximum of 59.95 acres of agricultural land can be purchased.|
|In case of no agricultural activity in the last 10 years, the land can be converted into non-agricultural one by order of the district collector|
|Karnataka||Non-farmers with a maximum annual income of Rs 25 lakh can purchase the agricultural land|
|Necessary approvals from the Deputy Commissioner must be sought before making the investment|
|Investor is not allowed to convert the land|
|It is essential to begin farming on the land within one year from the date of purchase|
|If farming is stopped on the land within five years of the purchase, the State government is authorised to confiscate the land|
|Kerala||Anyone except NRIs can purchase agricultural land|
|For an adult unmarried or an only surviving member of the family, the ceiling limit is 7.5 acres|
|For a family of two to five persons, the ceiling limit is 15 acres|
|For a family of over five, the ceiling limit is 20 acres|
|Maharashtra||Only farmers can buy agricultural land|
|If one of the parents or grandparents is a farmer, the person is also deemed a farmer|
|In addition to any other agricultural land anywhere in India, the person can purchase it in the said state|
|Maximum of 54 acres of agricultural land can be purchased|
|Gujarat||Only an agriculturalist can purchase such land|
|Any farmer across the country can invest in agricultural land|
|Rajasthan||Anyone can buy agricultural land except for NRIs and PIOs|
|For non-agricultural activities, the land needs to be converted within one year from the date of purchase|
|The non-agricultural activity should begin on the land within three years from the date of conversion|
|Madhya Pradesh||Anyone can buy agricultural land except for NRIs and PIOs|
|Haryana||Anyone except NRIs can invest here|
|Certain areas are known as Controlled Areas|
|For buyers, except NRIs, a certificate entailing the change of land-use is to be obtained from the State for non-agricultural activities|
|Himachal Pradesh||A non-agriculturalist cannot purchase agricultural land|
|The investor needs to be from the state|
|Non-agricultural land may be obtained post due permissions from the State under Section 118 of the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972|
|West Bengal||As per the West Bengal Land Reforms Act, a maximum of 17.5 acres of irrigated land and 24.5 acres of rainfed land can be purchased for private ownership|
|In urban areas, a maximum of 7.5 kottah is eligible for purchase|
|Land types exempted from the Land Reforms Act- tea gardens, mills, workshops, livestock, breeding and poultry farms, dairies, and townships|
|Andhra Pradesh||Non-farmers can also purchase land|
|A family unit (individual, spouse and three minors) can purchase a maximum of 10 acres of Class A land (irrigated and double-cropped wetland)|
|A family unit can purchase at most 54 acres of Class K land (dry and non-irrigated land)|
|Uttar Pradesh||Anyone, excluding NRIs can invest in agricultural land|
|The ceiling limit is 12.5 acres|
Agricultural Land in India: Land ceiling
The land ceiling is the maximum agricultural land a buyer can own, and the norms vary substantially across territories. Knowing these land-ceiling norms is essential to prevent fraudulent activities by the sellers and legal discrepancies.
Agricultural Land in India: Land conversion
“Conversion of agricultural land into residential land is essential before undertaking any development. However, a wetland cannot be converted; only dry pastures are applicable for conversion of land”, adds Sathish.
To apply for a ‘change of land use’, submit an application to the commissioner of the land revenue department, explaining the reason for conversion. Also, attach a copy of identity proof, mutation letter, original sale deed, receipts of tax paid and the photocopy of the survey map for verification. Besides, the conversion process involves a fee that may differ from one State to another.
Agricultural Land in India: Get past the legal hurdles
If the agricultural land is Government-allotted, special permission would be required to transfer the ownership rights. Also, the owner of the land should have full-fledged possession of the property. For instance, a caretaker or the guardian of the landowner who is a minor cannot sell the property since he does not have full rights to the property. Moreover, leased agricultural land is not eligible for transfer. In case the lessee transfers the property deceitfully, not only will he be penalised, but the government authorities may also seize the property.
Know Your Neighbourhood Well
Documents needed for buying agricultural land in India
|Documents needed||Purpose of the document|
|Title deed||This document is needed to check the authenticity of the seller|
|Sale agreement||The sale agreement details all the intricacies of the transaction|
|Stamp duty||Paid as per the directive of the State where the land is located|
|Registration||Contains the terms and conditions of the property transfer to the buyer's name.|
|Tax receipts and bills||Ensures there are no outstanding dues on the property|
|Encumbrance certificate||A document that certifies that a property is free from any legal or monetary disputes.|
|Land measurement certificate||A certificate stating that the land measurements are as per the data mentioned in the title deed|
|Power of attorney||When acting on behalf of the seller|
The title deed of the land
This document is needed to check the authenticity of the seller, especially in case there is more than one owner. The buyer must verify the document to ensure that all the owners consent to the transaction. Once the sale is completed, the buyer must check if his name is reflecting in the official village records.
The sale agreement details all the intricacies of the transaction and is signed by the buyer and seller. It promises the transfer of the property once the transaction is complete.
A stamp duty is paid as per the directive of the State where the land is located. This amount can vary from one State to another.
It is the signing of the document at the registrar’s office that contains the terms and conditions of the property transfer to the buyer’s name. Both the parties sign the document in the presence of two witnesses. The documents generally include the house tax receipts, the original title deed, and property details.
Tax receipts and bills
It is the buyer’s responsibility to seek all previous documents, invoices and tax receipts to ensure there are no outstanding dues on the property.
Encumbrance certificate (EC)
An Encumbrance Certificate is a document that certifies that a property is free from any legal or monetary disputes. The buyer must obtain the EC from the sub-registrar’s office.
Land measurement certificate
A certificate stating that the land measurements are as per the data mentioned in the title deed must be obtained from a registered surveyor.
Power of attorney
NRIs may not purchase agricultural land themselves, but they can sell the land inherited by them. A power of attorney should be bestowed on an authorised trustworthy third party who would act on behalf of the seller. The document should be recognised and signed by an officer of the Indian embassy, where the seller resides.
For those interested in purchasing agricultural land in Maharashtra and Gujarat, additional documents like 7/12 and 8A extracts should be checked before closing the deal.
Process of buying an agricultural land
Measurement of land
The total area of agricultural land and the boundaries marked by a surveyor are measured. During the survey, the surveyor will compare the measured size with the title certificate. It is imperative that you pay for the right plot area.
Going through the documents
Buying agricultural land involves a lot of paperwork. It is important to verify the authenticity and legality of these documents. Documents include title deed and release certificate, property tax receipts and other bills, sale deed, and agreement of sale. These documents are critical to buying agricultural land and need to be drawn perfectly. Therefore, it makes sense to hire a professional property lawyer to handle this for you.
Stamp duty and registration
Upon determining the final sale price, you will need to submit the details to the local municipal department and pay the relevant stamp duty. The amount of stamp duty varies from place to place. Find out the exact stamp value in the area by talking to your property lawyer. The registration process must be completed at the sub-registrar's office.
What is Agricultural zoning?
The Government often divides specific areas as zones to dedicate the land usage there. Zoning is done to promote strategic development and ensure that based on the type of land, it is put to optimum use. For example, shades of yellow signify residential use of land, while red is dedicated for the development of structures like religious and educational. Similarly, light and dark blue symbolise commercial land parcels for business hubs, offices, and retail infrastructure, like eateries, shopping malls and cinema halls.
For agricultural and greenery-maintenance activities, the colour ‘Green’ is used. Shades of green in a town planning scheme or a city’s master plan may denote forest, lake, valley, pond, garden, agriculture and cemetery.
Know Your Neighbourhood Well
Who cannot buy agricultural land in India?
Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) are not allowed to buy agricultural lands, farmhouses, or plantation properties in India. They will, however, be able to inherit them.
Using the land for non-agricultural purposes
As soon as you purchase land for agricultural purposes, you can begin using it. Nevertheless, if you wish to use it for a non-agricultural purpose, you need to apply to the local authorities. Below are the details that should be included in the application.
- Owner's name and other details
- Purchase date of the land
- When the land was last used for agriculture
- A copy of the sale deed, tax receipts, title deed, and registration certificate
- Conversion fees for agricultural lands into non-agricultural lands
- A description of the plans you have for the purchased land
The concerned authority will approve the land conversion once all the necessary documents, forms and fees have been submitted. Each State has its own land conversion fee.
Legal tips to buy agricultural land in India
If you are planning to purchase agricultural land in India, here are a few legal tips to keep in mind:
Check the title deed of the agricultural land to verify the ownership
A title deed confirms the seller's name and verifies his or her right to sell the property. Assume the existing agricultural land has more than one owner under the current title deed and the previous title deed. If this is the case, it is recommended to get the documents checked by a lawyer before registering them to ensure that others have not gained access to the land.
Verify the documents and sign a land sale agreement
Both sellers and buyers must sign a written document mentioning the advance payment amount, the balance payment, and the actual sale period under the supervision of a lawyer and two witnesses. It plays a crucial role in the process of buying agricultural land. Hence, it is extremely important that you read the agreement's terms and clauses carefully before signing it.
Find out the stamp duty on the land
Stamp duty is another important aspect of buying a property. Taxes imposed by the government on the property are called stamp duties. Stamp duties on land differ from State to State. It can also be used in a court of law as a legal document.
Required documents for the registration of the land
Registration of land is a document stating the transfer of property to the new owner and requires the signatures of both parties at the Registrar's office. The India Registration Act 1908 requires the deed to be registered at the local sub-registrar's office, and documents such as house tax receipts, previous deeds, and the original deed must be presented along with two witnesses.
Sale/Conveyance deed of the land
The deed transfers ownership of the property from the seller to the buyer. Additionally, the documents include all the necessary details, such as location, measurement, and boundary information.
Collect the encumbrance and land measurement certificate
The document assures the buyer that there will be no legal hassles or complaints related to the agricultural land. The sub-registrar's office issues encumbrance certificates.
Ensure there are no pending tax receipts and bills of land records
The buyer should ensure there are no outstanding bills or notices regarding the property before purchasing it. Make sure all bills are current and clear, such as water, electricity, or other utilities.
Changing the title of the agricultural land
Once all legal procedures are completed and all vital aspects of buying agricultural land have been addressed, the land's new owner is recorded at the village office.
Rules and restrictions when purchasing agricultural land
The legal procedure for buying agricultural land varies from State to State in India. Some States allow anyone to purchase agricultural land, regardless of their profession, while others allow only agriculturists to do so.
Advantages and disadvantages of buying agricultural land in India
Investing in agricultural land in India comes with its own share of pros and cons, such as the ones discussed below:
- Long-term returns: Agricultural plots can promise long-term returns, particularly when it is in a region where any infrastructural project is slated to come up in the near future.
- Higher compensation: If the government plansIn case the government is planning to acquire your land for any project, the compensation you will receive for a rural agricultural plot will be higher than thatan urban land.
- Holding a non-depreciating asset: Keep in mind that the asset you hold will not depreciate with time, which is not something you can say about apartments or builder floors. When you invest in agricultural land, it frees you from the recurring maintenance cost of buying an apartment.
- Restrictions on the purchase: In most Indian States, you cannot buy farmland if you are not a farmer. Similarly, an NRI cannot purchase agricultural land anywhere in the country.
- Regulations for land-use conversion: A fertile agricultural plot cannot be turned into a residential area. The land has to be dry or barren to enable such a conversion.
- Incomplete knowledge about local laws and terms: It is important to remember that land is a State subject and thus, laws and local terminologies vary widely across the nation. A lack of thorough knowledge of the legalities can be disadvantageous to the buyer.
Understanding the guidelines for the sale and purchase of agricultural land in a State is necessary. A buyer should be vigilant about the documents and verify the title deed, land agreement, encumbrance certificate and release certificate in case there is more than one owner. Knowing the authenticity of the documents is a must to keep the fraudsters at bay.
Check land records state-wise in India
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