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Tight squeeze for light rail - houses on the line

in Business Law by Vincent Butcher on

Light rail is coming soon to a street near you. While few of us are opposed to extra public transport or the particular charm of trams, the NSW government is yet to confirm part of the actual route through the inner East. What happens if you receive a notice that your property is to be acquired to make way for the light rail?

Compulsory acquisitions are a tricky business and prone to cause controversy. The trickiness comes because when properties are compulsorily acquired – either fully or partially – it is done for public benefit, for example to widen roads. While people may agree with the aim of the project, it becomes very personal when it’s your home, business or carefully selected investment on the line. There will always be people who don’t want to leave their properties and everybody will always want the best possible price.

Under legislation landowners who are having their property either fully or partially compulsorily acquired have the right to receive fair market value compensation. They also may be entitled to other disturbance costs. It sounds straightforward enough – but arriving at a “fair” figure and being compensated all you are entitled to can be complex. People need to understand their rights and to ensure they are fully compensated.

There are a few things a person who is having his or her property compulsorily acquired must understand.

While you do have to sell to the acquiring authority, you can still negotiate – and, as in all negotiations, never readily accept the first offer. If you think your property is worth more than is being offered, you must build a case. If you are part of a street or a block of flats that is being acquired, you can build that case together. Building a case is a team effort that can involve lawyers, and other experts such as valuers, town planners, accountants and engineers.

If initial negotiations are not successful you, as the landowner, have the right to have the Land & Environment Court determine the fair value of your property. But you only get one chance. Getting it wrong can be very costly.

You are also entitled to have your reasonable costs of putting your case together paid by the Acquiring Authority. This is in addition to the fair market value of land compensation the landowner receives. It’s important therefore that landowners receive the best advice they can.

It is going to be a tight squeeze to get the light rail through the inner East. If you think your property will be at risk it is best to start planning now.

This article appeared in the South Sydney Herald on 06/06/2013

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