Like so many areas of the law, compulsory acquisition of land is a field many people are not familiar with until it affects them or someone they know. It is a reality that statutory authorities like VicRoads, water authorities, your local council and government departments have the power to acquire all or part of your land. In some instances, an easement may be acquired so that the authority can put in an overhead electricity line or an underground water or gas pipeline. Despite these powers, it is important to know that both land owners and tenants have rights too.
The acquiring authority is required to provide you with notification of their intention to compulsorily acquire the land. You should also receive, in writing, an offer of compensation for the land being acquired. This is usually accompanied by a certificate of valuation. It is essential once you receive these documents, to make an appointment to obtain independent legal advice. This is a specialised area of the law where legal advice is not only helpful, but will frequently result in an increased offer of compensation from the acquiring authority. This can be achieved either after an independent valuation which we can arrange on your behalf, or further considerations being brought to your attention which may justify additional compensation. Generally speaking, the compensation figure will take into consideration such factors as: the market value of the land, any special value to the landowner and any intangible disadvantage that may result from the acquisition.
The cost of obtaining legal advice and an independent valuation is usually covered by the acquiring authority. This is important as it means you are generally not out of pocket for obtaining professional advice. It is also helpful to know that you have the right to obtain an advance of all or part of the compensation being offered, without prejudicing your right to claim additional compensation if you do not agree with the initial compensation offer.
If you would like advice specific to your situation on compulsory land acquisition and compensation, please feel free to contact any of WJM’s property lawyers.