What to do if the government wants to acquire your property

Your home is your castle, but what happens if the government wants the land your castle sits on?

No doubt you’ve probably been reading about the Federal Government’s plans to acquire the properties of dozens of homeowners near Rockhampton and Townsville so the Singapore army has somewhere to train.

Like many people, you’ve probably been thinking that something like this could never happen to you.

But the reality is it can happen to anyone of us at any time.

Governments, both State and Federal, can order the acquisition of properties for a number of reasons from the establishment of mines to the expansion of government facilities or the building of roads and other infrastructure.

You might be wondering how it’s legal for the government to do this?

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Well, in Queensland for example, your property can be acquired by the Coordinator-General with or without your agreement under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971, provided you are compensated. In some instances, only part of your property or an easement may be acquired by the government.

If the government is planning on acquiring your property, you will be issued a Notice of Intention to Resume (NIR) – which will detail how much of your property the government intends to acquire. And from there the process of acquisition begins.

While the government will aim to get you to agree to the terms of acquisition, there are steps you can take to oppose it – however none of these steps are guaranteed to save your property.

Remember the film The Castle?

While your battle is unlikely to make it all the way to the High Court, there is a process you can follow that might just save your property.

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To object to your property being acquired, you have 30 days from the date on the Notice of Intention to Resume to give written notice objecting to the acquisition.

You need to outline why you’re objecting and whether you would like a hearing to support your objection. In the past, reasons property owners objecting to acquisition have argued against the need for acquisition, pointed out whether a different area could be acquired and argued that access to their remaining land will be affected, among other issues.

In the end the Coordinator General makes the final decision, that person will choose to either cancel the acquisition, proceed with the acquisition as planned or amend the acquisition. Unfortunately, you will have to pay any legal costs associated with your objection out of your own pocket.

It’s a situation many have faced, and some have argued and fought and succeeded while others have given their all in the fight for their property and lost. 

If things don’t go in your favour, and you’ve run out of legal avenues, then comes the hard decision of settling with the government.

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When it comes to compensation, many people expect they will get what they paid for their property – but that isn’t always the case.

The government will use a independent valuer to value your property, which if it’s decreased in value, could see you end up with less than what you paid for it.

You can choose to accept the offer of compensation made to you by the Coordinator General, or you can submit your own written compensation claim, at which point negotiations will begin.

As part of the compensation paid to you by the government, you’ll be compensated for the cost of hiring a valuer and solicitor if you choose to hire them to lodge a compensation claim on your behalf.

You will also be compensated for the legal costs associated with buying a property of equal or lesser value, including stamp duty. Plus any economic losses sustained if you’re a business owner. You won’t be able to claim for any stress, emotional destress or other health issues as a result of the acquisition.

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If an agreement can’t be reached between you and the Coordinator General, the Land Court in your state will make the final decision on the amount of compensation. However, in Queensland for example, only 1% of cases end up in the Land Court.

While you can only hope that nothing like this does ever happen to you, it’s important to be prepared if it ever does.

If you’re confused or lost during the process, it’s always a good idea to seek legal advice. Always remember to read the rules for your state, as there can be some variation in the law from state to state.

Has this ever happened to you? What do you think about the government’s ability to acquire property without consent from a property owner?


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