Compulsory Acquisitions

New and expanding infrastructure projects in NSW, seem to be the new big thing. Right now, in Sydney alone, we have multiple major transport infrastructure projects ongoing such as Northconnex, Westconnex, the metro and the light rail. In addition to those major projects, there are smaller road upgrades, footpath installations, upgrades of water and sewerage infrastructure, electrical supply and telecommunications infrastructure. This is a constant element in the infrastructure landscape of NSW.

Many of these projects will impact in one way or another with property rights. Whether it is the need to acquire a property to locate new infrastructure on, obtain an easement to protect a piece of infrastructure, or temporarily lease a site for the purposes of staging works from. Ultimately, land owners are generally compensated for these incursions into their land rights.

But, let’s face it. Having a few Government employees in suits turn up to your house, with a Proposed Acquisition Notice, and start the process of forcibly buying your house, is a daunting and terrifying prospect.

Luckily, your rights as a land owner are enshrined in legislation. Furthermore, the process by which the NSW Government can acquire or extinguish your rights as a property owner, is guided by a relatively proscriptive piece of law, call the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991.

One of the stated objectives of the Act includes to “ensure compensation on just terms for the owners of land that is acquired by an authority of the state”. More specifically, Section 55 of the Just Terms Act sets out the various heads of compensation that a dispossessed party are entitled to be compensated for.

Ultimately, if you do have the misfortune of receiving a Proposed Acquisition Notice for land that you own, it is important that you seek good advice from an appropriately qualified and experienced valuer and a solicitor. The adage that good advice is expensive, but you should see how much it costs to get bad advice, is never truer than in compulsory acquisition matters.

The fees you pay should form part of the compensation that you will be entitled to, and getting the right advice at the beginning can make a difference in the result of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and in some cases, millions of dollars.

So, in summary, if you become involved in a compulsory acquisition matter, the most important decision you will make, is who your advisers are, so shop around and make sure you are happy with who you have selected, their background and experience.

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