Help! Theyre Building A Highway Through My Home
Your home is your castle, right? It said so in that popular movie The Castle. Well, that movie didn’t take into account the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act of 1991. This law states that if the council or a government authority responsible for highways, railways or other assorted public works wants to build something through your living room they can go through a process of compulsory acquisition, in which by law, you will lose your castle. In the past five years more than a thousand properties have been compulsorily acquired in NSW. That’s a lot of lost castles. And with plans to build ever more roads it would be wise to know your rights.
The Act requires acquisitions to be on “just” terms, and encourages purchase by negotiation, as opposed to kicking down your front door and dragging you out. The trouble is the authority holds all the cards. It tells you your property is to be acquired and tells you how much you’ll get. If you don’t agree to the authority’s compensation, you should go to the Valuer General to set compensation. Early preparation can make a big difference to the final outcome so it’s wise to consult a specialist solicitor as soon as possible.
Digby Dunn of Stacks Law Firm has handled many of these cases. He says the Valuer General must consider the market value of the land, any special value of the property to the owner, legal costs and valuation fees incurred, relocation costs, financial costs in discharging a mortgage, financial use of the land such as farm or business, the length of time a person has lived on the property and the inconvenience in relocating.
Where land has become reserved or rezoned for a public purpose a homeowner can give notice to the responsible authority to acquire the land. This can take a long time and under a 2006 amendment only those suffering “hardship” can require an authority to acquire the property quickly. However many people only discover their property is earmarked for acquisition in a draft zone plan when they go to sell their home, leaving them in frustrated limbo for years.
If you are not happy with the Valuer General’s price, you can object to the Land and Environment Court. You present your own valuations and other evidence for a greater compensation. It would be wise to get legal advice on how best to present your case. Remember, the authority has done this hundreds of times, so arm yourself and don’t surrender your castle cheaply.