Land owners faced with expropriation are quickly plunged into a complex, time sensitive, stressful and often unpleasant process. Understanding the legal framework and the process, as well as some of the tactics surrounding when to consult the experts (as well as which experts to consult) can better equip a landowner to make the best of the situation. This article outlines the procedures mandated by the Expropriations Act of Ontario, and explains each step of the process. In certain circumstances, municipalities, federal and provincial governments, utility companies, schools and universities have the power to expropriate land. ‘Expropriation’ includes “the taking of land without consent of the owner by an expropriating authority in the exercise of its statutory powers . . .” The Act is triggered by a Notice of Application for Approval to Expropriate Land. If the landowner has not received a Notice, or seen it in the newspaper, the owner will become aware of the expropriation when contacted by the authority in its attempt to negotiate the acquisition of the property. At this point it is important that the landowner contact an expert – lawyer, accountant, appraiser, planner – to help guide them through the process and to ensure that they receive the best negotiated settlement possible. Tactically, it is important that the landowner determine the fair value of the land, and be aware of any additional compensation to which they might be entitled eg. value of buildings, relocation costs for a business etc. before negotiating. The article notes that a landowner should not retain an appraiser until after the expropriation process has been formally triggered. If the landowner wishes to reduce or increase the physical scope of the expropriation, or wishes to make alternative proposals, or avoid the expropriation, a Hearing of Necessity may be required.
An expert opinion is usually needed to determine whether this would be a worthwhile effort. Depending on the circunstances, if a settlement cannot be negotiated, a landowner may have recourse to a meeting before a Negotiation Board, or an arbitration before the Municipal Board.
- When faced with expropriation it is prudent for a landowner to obtain expert advice, and to obtain an independent appraisal of the land, buidlings, business relocation costs etc. It is important however to wait until the expropriation process has been formally triggered before obtaining an appraisal or negotiating with the expropriating authority.
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