real estate law
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This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, LawSikho.

Did you know that real estate law was a practice area?

Or did you think it was confined to the land law books you dreaded to study back in law school?

I definitely did think that there could be nothing more boring than learning about the mutation of properties and land records. Never ever even thought that one could make a career of it. More so, one would make a career in this field?

Real estate law practice is a niche area of law practice, that most law students aren’t even aware of. Yes, that is true.

A few days back we compiled a list of real estate lawyers in Mumbai that might have given you a basic understanding of the practice. If you missed reading it, check it out here.

How many real estate lawyers do you know of? 

Do you know that most real estate developers such as Unitech, Assotech, Lodha Group and the likes have major in-house teams to deal with their miseries?

Do you know there were firms like Hariani & Co. that actually have a legacy of over 30 years of real estate practice? A full-fledged team of lawyers that deal with litigation as well as transaction and property due diligence?

Real estate is actually one of the most rewarding yet overlooked areas to practice law, let’s talk about what real estate lawyers actually do.

We did a lot of research, spoke to real estate lawyers from reputed law firms and companies and came up with a comprehensive take on it.

Here is what we learned: 

Real estate lawyers do everything from title search of a property to dispute resolution. They have to conduct the due diligence for the property to know if the title is clear for development or sale. Then they have to make title search reports or title search certificates as per their client’s requirements.

They also check for pending mortgages and litigation on the property, to find a reasonable and amicable solution for their clients. They advise their clients on various property-related matters. They draft MOUs, lease agreements, leave and license agreements, etc. They also handle land or property related disputes.

Their clients range from individuals investing in a flat to developers or promoters. So, if you’re a developer trying to get the land to develop a property, you have to get in touch with a real estate lawyer.

What laws and regulations do they need to know?

While the range of laws applicable to real estate laws is extensive laws, like The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, Transfer of Property Act, Contracts Act, state laws and regulations like Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, Development Control Rules, etc. are what real estate lawyers deal with on a daily basis.

#1 The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act

Recently, with the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 [RERDA],  Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) has come into place. This law was introduced to protect home-buyers as well as help boost investments in the real estate industry.

The Act establishes the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) in each state for regulation of the real estate sector and also acts as an adjudicating body for speedy dispute redressal. Under RERDA, all builders and developers have a duty to register their new and ongoing projects with the Regulatory Authority in case they are planning to sell the property.

Under the law, RERA has to dispose off a complaint within 60 days of filing. With RERA in place in a state, one cannot file lawsuits in civil courts or high courts. 

#2 Transfer of Property Act

The  Transfer of Property Act regulates the transfer of property in India and it classifies property into immovable and movable properties. The transfer of property may be to an individual, company or association or body of individuals. A real estate lawyer needs to be thorough in their knowledge of this act as it governs and regulates the transfer of properties between parties. 

#3 Contract Act

The knowledge of contract law is essential for all lawyers, more importantly the practical experience in the field. Even real estate lawyers have to know how to draft contracts and agreements. They regularly deal with clients who need them to draft the necessary agreements like MoU, lease agreement, leave and license agreement, sale agreement, broker agreement, etc. Therefore, they need to be adept at the subject matter. 

#4 Consumer Protection Act

 Prior to RERA, even in states where RERA has not been established post-RERA, usually the lawyers approached the consumer courts whenever handover of a developing property was delayed, or if there was a dispute between the seller and buyer of a property. The real estate lawyers need to know the procedural aspects of the law, how to file a consumer complaint, etc.

#5 State Rules and Regulations

The rules and regulations for states differ from one another in terms of procedure, stamp duty, registration, etc.

So, for instance in Maharashtra, a real estate lawyer needs to know the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, Standardized Building Bye-laws, Development Control Rules, etc. along with the other laws.

In West Bengal, RERA was met with pushback from the state government’s legislation West Bengal Housing Industry Regulation Act (WBHIRA) which looks like an attempt to dilute RERA.

There are two major deviations in the WBHIRA from RERA. It adds “…or any other circumstances as may be prescribed”, under the provision of unforeseen circumstances that prevent a builder from fulfilling his contract,” which makes it ambiguous.

Also, a garage is described as any parking space sanctioned by the government authority, which differs from the RERA’s definition of garage requiring a roof and walls on three sides. The real estate lawyers need to know and be able to apply the state laws, rules, regulations, bye-laws, etc. related to real estate. 

What are the skills required for real estate lawyers?

So, one of the questions I posed to the real estate lawyers was what kind of skill sets are required for a successful career in real estate law. Another question was what do potential employers look for in a candidate while hiring.

In the case of the employers, they look for candidates with experience in the real estate laws. This includes the number of deals the candidate may have closed, the nature and quality of said deals, the number of transactions closed, transaction-based advice, dispute resolution, etc. 

#1 Knowledge of real estate laws

A real estate lawyer has to possess a thorough knowledge of the various laws, rules, regulations, bye-laws involved in real estate. These lawyers need to be able to provide end to end service a potential client.

A client may come to them for a simple title search certificate or a leave and license agreement. Or a developer may come for understanding his contractual obligations to the client or whether the delay can be justified as unforeseen circumstances.

The thorough knowledge of relevant laws like RERDA, Transfer of Property Act, state rules and regulations like Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, Standardized Building Bye-laws, Development Control Rules, West Bengal Housing Industry Regulation Act (WBHIRA), etc. is essential for real estate lawyers. 

#2 Contract Drafting

Every lawyer must know how to draft contracts, real estate lawyers are no exception. They need to know the laws as well as how to draft the contracts needed by their clients. For instance, a developer or promoter developing his property enters into an MoU with the potential party before entering the developer’s agreement.

 Similarly, a house owner entering into a leave and license agreement with licensees, party leasing the property from another, all need a real estate lawyer to help them draft the necessary agreements and advise them.  

#3 Dispute Resolution

 The disputes arising from immovable property have to go to the right court. Prior to RERA, parties had the option of going to civil courts, high courts or consumer forums depending on the nature of the dispute. The real estate lawyers need to know the dispute resolution mechanism, the procedures of each forum, etc.

For instance, if the developer has failed to grant possession of the property for more than a year, a complaint can be filed against the defaulting party, i.e., the developer with RERA. The copies of relevant agreement like MoU, developers agreement, etc. has to be submitted along with the applicable fees. Thereafter within 60 days of filing, the matter is to be disposed off by RERA. 

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With such laws in place, a real estate lawyer has to find an amicable resolution of the dispute for his client. This requires a thorough knowledge of the laws involved, analysis of agreements involved, procedural knowledge, etc.

A real estate lawyer must be able to clearly advise his clients on potential issues cropping up and safeguard them against the same to the best of their abilities.

Real estate law is lucrative, as well as an interesting field of law as it gives the opportunity for lawyers to develop skills and expertise in a varied range of laws. With the changing legislation and regulations, it keeps the lawyers on their toes and helps them stay on top of their game.

You can check out our Certificate Course in Real Estate Laws, a 3-months certificate course with printed study material at your disposal, 1 online live class/ week (12 weeks), 2 practical or drafting exercises per week and a lot more.

You will be able to guide and advise the builders and developers in their project requirements for registration with RERA. You will also learn about filing an appeal with the Real Estate Appellate Tribunal. There is a massive list of opportunities in this field. Go through the course page to get a better understanding. 

The market of real estate is always on the rise for real estate lawyers, as the need for legal advice and disputes with respect to property hardly seems to slow down! Making a career in this field will be highly rewarding. The enrolments for the course ends on January 30th!

Here are other courses that might interest you:

DIPLOMA

Diploma in M&A, Institutional Finance and Investment Laws (PE and VC transactions)

Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Laws

EXECUTIVE CERTIFICATE COURSES

Certificate Course in Advanced Criminal Litigation & Trial Advocacy

Certificate Course in Real Estate Laws

Certificate Course in Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

Certificate Course in Media and Entertainment Law: Contracts, Licensing and Regulations

Certificate Course in Legal Practice Development and Management


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