What to do when you have to give up your property for new infrastructure

Zoe FieldingOctober 15, 20140 min read

Major infrastructure projects planned around the country could lead to a spate of compulsory property acquisitions and affected land owners are being warned to ensure they receive their full entitlements.

In one of the latest examples, Brisbane City Council announced in early October that it would resume 38 properties on Lytton Road as part of the Wynnum Road corridor upgrade.

Slater and Gordon practice leader Vincent Butcher said owners of affected properties on Lytton Road would know about the acquisitions by now and should already be seeking advice.

The acquisitions are scheduled to take place from mid-2016 through to 2017 with construction expected to begin in early 2018, according to Brisbane City Council.

"The acquiring authority is not going to hold their hand," Butcher said. "Land holders must be vigilant in getting the right entitlements. They can vary significantly depending on the acquisition and the timing."

Governments sometimes need to acquire, or resume, land owned by private individuals and businesses to make way for projects such as road and rail expansions, new electricity, gas or oil facilities, or public buildings like hospitals.

When this happens, the first step in the process is that the acquiring authority must serve a notice of intention to resume, which is an official document. That's not necessarily a letter of offer for compensation, Butcher explained.

Compulsory land acquisitions are subject to a legal process where affected owners have statutory and common law rights. They have three years from a specified date to come to a resumption agreement with the acquiring authority.

"It's better to get advice early rather than wait to a later time," Butcher said. "The reason for that is that once that [three year] statutory period expires they are exempt from making claims."

An acquiring authority can make an offer but typically the owner must obtain their own legal and valuation advice and put forward a compensation claim. That includes the market value of the property and also claims for extensive disturbance, which depend on each individual case.

Legal and valuation advice costs form part of the disturbance claim, so it makes sense to get the best advice available, explained Butcher.

One property owner may receive a different compensation figure from their next door neighbour even if the market value of their properties is identical, he said.

Butcher said land resumptions were a niche area that involved both valuation and legal advice, and it was important that land owners approached parties that specialised in the areas and worked well together.

"They need to get the right people to do the right job because you only get one chance," he said.

In one case Butcher worked on in Queensland, which concluded about 18 months ago, the land owner received eight times more than the initial compensation offer.

Zoe Fielding

I am a freelance journalist and editor with more than 15 years experience specialising in personal finance, property, financial services and financial technology. A skilled writer and researcher, I have extensive experience producing high quality content for corporate and media clients. I am used to working to tight deadlines and tailoring the pieces I produce to suit a variety of audiences and formats.
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