Compulsory Land Acquisition – What Are Your Rights?
Its hard to believe that land that you own could be taken from you and there is little you can do about it.
It would be hard to miss the recent media coverage of Sydneys controversial Metro. Sydney Metro had begun the process of acquiring land to make way for the proposed station exits and entrances, which affected many businesses. The NSW Government has since announced that it will not go ahead with the plans.
But it does highlight the point that there are occasions when a public need may outweigh your hold over your land.
Land is most often acquired to be used for public infrastructure, such as roads or electricity powerlines. The RTA might wish to build a motorway; the Department of Education a school.
As long as State legislation procedures are followed, and the land is being acquired for a public need, not for personal gain, there is not much you can do to resist.
Where you do have some level of bargaining power is in the area of compensation.
The Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991 sets out the process and outlines how the amount of compensation is calculated.
First, the acquiring body will send you a Proposed Acquisition Notice (PAN). A valuation of your property will be done, you will be given a determination of compensation, and they will try to negotiate an agreement with you. Sometimes negotiations for private sale will be done without any need for a PAN.
According to Mark Delany of Stacks Law Firm in Murwillumbah, It is essential that you seek expert advice as to your entitlements, because unless you ask for it, quantify it and press for it, you wont get it.
If you disagree with the compensation that has been determined, you have 90 days to appeal to the Land and Environment Court.
A formal Acquisition Notice is published in the Government Gazette within 90 to 120 days of the PAN, at which point you no longer own the property.
Getting legal advice is crucial to ensure that all factors are taken into account in relation to compensation. For example, solatium refers to non-financial costs, such as sentimental value of the land.
Where it can get particularly tricky is when there is only partial acquisition of your land. For example, where part of a farm is cut in half by a highway, a second piece of machinery may need to be purchased. Where a coastal lifestyle property is suddenly within 200 metres of a freeway, the market value will be affected if you decide to sell in the future.
The over-riding principle is that you should be no worse off after the acquisition of your land than you were before.