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Uncertain Times for Foreign Property Owners in Goa

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We just read an interesting radio interview transcript between BBC presenter John Waite and some expat UK property buyers that purchased property in the little slice of Indian paradise called Goa.

It seems that one little word can potentially cost hundreds of them their home. The word in question is “uncertain” and it was the hook needed by the Goan government to change a perfect existing law into one that is causing disbelief, upheaval and costly court cases in the future for sure.

In recent months the mood in the state of Goa has changed for the worse. A once seemingly undisturbed paradise that has been granting long stay visas to foreigners who wished to settle amongst the sandy white beaches and quiet localities has now been disturbed, perhaps forever with the recent stunt the Goan government pulled on the hundreds of expats who own (or thought they did) property in Goa.

It seems that the local state government and the Indian community mood has changed and turned sour against foreigners who live in Goa. Where once were open arms, there is now confusion, hostility and even anger.

Large scale property development is being opposed to because it pushes property prices into unaffordable regions for locals and the murder of 15-year-old English schoolgirl Scarlett Keeling on a Goan beach didn’t make things any easier. Perhaps we could speculate that it is because of these property developments that things have stated to boil over, but then that would be pulling at straws.

However, the Goan state government has responded to this situation by turning to a section of India’s Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), the law which covers who qualifies as an Indian resident and therefore who can and cannot buy property in India.

This is the section in question. Pay particular attention to the word uncertain and how it relates to the situation:

FEMA Act
A person residing in India is defined as residing in India for more than 182 days during the preceding financial year and who stays in India, either for taking up employment, carrying on business or vocation or for any other purpose that would indicate his intention to stay for an uncertain period.

With the new amendment of the law, the government is stating that an issued visa is in fact NOT an uncertain period of time which in turn makes any claims of legal residency invalid and therefore expat owners who previously thought they owned property under these conditions might in fact find themselves without any legal rights to anything they have purchased and paid for in the last 5 -8 years.

What makes matters worse is that those affected went through proper research channels before they handed over their money, including lawyers.

To add insult to injury the Goan government is also implementing an amendment to the 100 year old Indian Registration Act. This act is responsible to govern the registering of property deeds in India.

People have summoned to present their home purchase documents to the registrar. When they do, they will be told their deeds can’t be registered, which means they have no proof that they own the property. This has been told to several expats who were interviewed by John Waite.

To further add salt to an already infected wound, some shady selling practices are being used by real estate agents based in Goa still to this day, even though they are already familiar with the problems.

One wonders how a government can just change a law that has been perfectly fine for the last 8 years or so. Plus, the ways in which this “operation” has been carried out it seems that the underlying issue is to get rid of the expat community, come hell or high water.

We are shocked to see something like this being executed in public view while those poor expat souls have to face eviction if worst fears come true.

What do you think? Do you know anybody who is being affected by this crisis?