Paul Dillon explains how Compulsory Acquisition of Land by WestConnex works
Stage 1 of WestConnex includes an extension of the M4 East motorway via twin tunnels from Homebush Bay Drive to Parramatta Road and City West Link, Haberfield. Property owners in the inner west of Sydney have received letters from the WestConnex Delivery Authority giving notice that their properties are to be acquired, that a valuer will be appointed to inspect and value their properties and that they are entitled to engage an independent registered valuer to value their properties.
WestConnex Delivery Authority
WestConnex Delivery Authority is a statutory corporation which exercises the functions of Roads and Maritime Services under section 177 of the Roads Act 1993 to acquire land for the purposes of constructing the WestConnex motorway.
WestConnex Delivery Authority will attempt to negotiate an agreement with property owners for the acquisition of their properties. The letter advising owners that a valuer will be appointed is the first step in the process. Property owners will receive a second letter of offer when the valuation has been completed. If the offer is unacceptable, owners may submit an independent valuation in support of their assessment of value.
If a mutually acceptable agreement cannot be negotiated, the compulsory acquisition process and the rights of property owners are governed by the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991. Property owners are entitled to obtain independent legal and valuation advice about the compulsory acquisition process and their entitlement to compensation. The acquisition process will continue in the following way:
- WestConnex Delivery Authority will make an application to the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight for approval to compulsorily acquire the property by an acquisition notice published in the Government Gazette.
- Legal ownership of the property will vest in WestConnex Delivery Authority on the date of publication of the acquisition notice in the Government Gazette. That is, the property will be effectively vested in WestConnex Delivery Authority’s ownership, upon publication of an acquisition notice in the Government Gazette and before any offer of compensation is made to property owners.
- Within 30 days after publication of the Acquisition Notice in the Government Gazette, WestConnex Delivery Authority must give property owners a written notice of the compulsory acquisition, their entitlement to compensation and the amount of compensation offered as determined by the Valuer-General.
- Property owners will have 90 days in which to either accept the amount of compensation offered by WestConnex Delivery Authority or to lodge an objection to the amount of compensation with the Land and Environment Court.
- If property owners accept the amount of compensation offered they will be required to enter into a Deed of Release with WestConnex Delivery Authority. Compensation will be paid within 28 days after WestConnex Delivery Authority receives the completed Deed of Release.
- Interest is payable on the amount of compensation offered to property owners from the date the land is acquired until payment is made.
- If property owners do not accept the amount of compensation offered and commence proceedings in the Land and Environment Court, they must give notice of the institution of the proceedings to WestConnex Delivery Authority. Within 28 days of the notice being given, WestConnex Delivery Authority will make an advance payment to property owners of 90% of the compensation offered if they agree to accept the payment. If the payment is not accepted, the advance and interest will be deposited into a trust account pending the decision of the Land and Environment Court.
- WestConnex Delivery Authority is entitled to vacant possession of the property once it has paid compensation or an advance payment of 90% of the compensation to the property owner or has deposited the advance payment and interest into a trust account.
Compensation will be paid for the market value of the land on the date of its acquisition. The impact on value of the proposed motorway is to be disregarded in assessing market value.
WestConnex Delivery Authority and the Court have a discretion to take into account “special value” and “disturbance” losses. That means that in addition to the market value of properties, acquisition payments may include provision for:
- financial value which is incidental to the property owner’s use of the property
- legal costs including conveyancing fees
- valuation fees
- relocation expenses including stamp duty costs in connection with the purchase of another property of equal value
- mortgage re-establishment costs
- solatium allowances to compensate owners for the inconvenience of having to move residence
Property owners affected by notice that their properties are to be acquired by WestConnex Delivery Authority should consult a lawyer to ensure that they receive all the compensation to which they are entitled. The amount of compensation will include legal costs and valuation fees reasonably incurred in connection with the compulsory acquisition of a property.
Foulsham and Geddes notes that this article is written for the purpose of providing generalised information and not to provide specialised legal advice. If you require qualified legal advice on anything mentioned in this article, our experienced team of solicitors at Foulsham and Geddes are here to help. Please get in touch with us on 02 9232 8033 today to make an enquiry.
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