Property owners likely to lose land to the pending Horsham bypass should seek expert legal advice to ensure they receive full compensation for the land they will lose.
That’s the suggestion of Accredited Business Law specialist Erol Chakir, who has helped secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation for regional Victorian farmers whose land has been used for various infrastructure projects over the past 10 years.
Mr Chakir, a Principal with Maddens Lawyers, warned that the first offer usually put to landowners was rarely the best.
“My experience is it’s only when landowners know their rights and, based on advice from a lawyer, understand what they can ask for, that the maximum amount of compensation is secured,” he said.
“Those acquiring the land are always working to serve their own best interests, and will attempt to secure the land at he lowest price they can, rather than work for what is in the best interest of the landowner.
“But when a landowner has been represented by an experienced lawyer, who knows the process well, the end result is typically many thousands of dollars more for the property owner than had they gone alone.”
He said negotiating a contract for compulsory acquisition of land was a complex process that, despite what people may have seen on television, rarely favoured ‘David’ over ‘Goliath’.
“While the film, ‘The Castle’, is a great story, compulsory acquisitions rarely, if ever, finish like that one did,” Mr Chakir warned. “It’s a lot less entertaining, and much more complicated. There’s a lot of back and forth and the more you know about the process, the better you tend to fare.”
Mr Chakir, who is also western Victoria’s only Tax Law specialist, has worked with hundreds of regional Victorian landowners whose land is now home to an assortment of state or privately owned infrastructure. This includes wind turbines, gas pipelines and powerline easements, the expansion of the Princes Highway between Colac and Geelong and the expanded Hamilton airport.
“There are a lot of complexities in this process,” Mr Chakir explained. “Landowners may not realise what factors can influence how much compensation they are entitled to ask for, and receive. For example, the length of time someone has owned the land, and what other business they conduct on it, all comes into calculation.
“Advice from an experienced lawyer is a sensible first step that is likely to yield you more compensation than going it alone.”
He added that the cost of having a lawyer negotiate on a landowner’s behalf was also part of what could be claimed when negotiating a final price. “The compensation a landowner is paid will include legal costs,” he reasoned.
Mr Chakir stressed that landowners were free to handle the compulsory acquisition approaches as they wished – but the payoff of doing so was usually much less in dollar terms.
“It’s not something you MUST consult a lawyer for in order to finalise it,” he said. “But, as a lawyer who has overseen many of these types of situations, I can confidently offer that those who undertook the process with he support of an experienced lawyer gainedmore in compensation than what they would have received if they’d acted on their own.”