When it comes to expropriation law, you have rights. You may not know it, but there are steps you can take and opportunities you can avail yourself of if your land or property has been expropriated by the government. While this process may seem intimidating and complex, knowing the basics about this area of law will help ensure that you understand your rights and how to protect them should an expropriation occur in your life.
What is expropriation?
Expropriation is when the government takes land for public use. The process for making this happen is a legal one and involves compensation for any damages incurred as a result of the expropriation process.
Typically, a notice of intent will be given by an authority or agency before proceeding with an expropriation project. If no objections are raised within 30 days, then they can proceed with their plans without further consultation with the affected parties.
In most cases where property has been expropriated, there are four main factors that go into determining your compensation:
- Fair market value of the expropriated property;
- Damages that cover the consequences of the land being expropriated (e.g. improvements to property not part of the fair market value);
- Damages from the consequences of expropriation that are not directly tied to the property (e.g., business losses); and
- Special damages to cover the property owner’s difficulties in relocating.
How do I know if my property has been expropriated in Ontario?
The notice of expropriation is the first step in the process. You can receive a notice of expropriation if your property is being taken or used by the government, whether permanently or temporarily. The government may issue a notice if they need to build a highway, railway or hydro line through your land, or use some of it for construction purposes.
A notice will tell you how much money will be paid for the land being taken from you. It also describes how long before construction on your property begins and when you should expect to start receiving payments (if applicable).
What should I do if I want to oppose land expropriation?
If you want to oppose expropriation, a hearing may be held on request to determine if the taking of your land is fair, sound and reasonably necessary. This hearing does not deal with compensation and is limited to whether it is necessary for the expropriating authority to acquire the land. An inquiry officer prepares a report after the hearing on the merits of expropriation, but they do not make the final decision.
What happens after my land is expropriated in Ontario?
Once your land is expropriated, you may be able to get more than the amount of compensation offered. If you have a good case and can prove that your property is worth more than the offer, you may be able to go back to court for a second compensation hearing. The municipality will hire an appraiser who will determine how much your land is worth if it were developed as residential or commercial property. They also consider how much it would cost them to buy similar properties in your area with similar development potential (the “market value”).
The courts sometimes award additional money on top of the market value (monetary compensation), but only if they find that there are special circumstances affecting their decision.
If I don’t agree with how much I’m being offered, what can I do?
One of the first things you should do is contact an experienced lawyer and find out how much they think your land is worth. If they think it’s worth more than what they’re offering, they’ll be able to help you negotiate with the government.
If you don’t agree with the assessment of compensation, you can first bring a claim before the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (formerly the Ontario Municipal Board). If the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal makes a decision in favour of expropriation, you can appeal that decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal. Decisions of the Ontario Land Tribunal may be further appealed. The Ontario Land Tribunal is not bound by any of the decisions made at the Ontario Municipal Board.
What kind of evidence should I gather to support my case in front of the tribunal?
You should gather as much evidence as possible to support your case. This includes:
- Documentation of the value of your property;
- Documentation of your financial situation and how it is affected by the expropriation. You can use bank statements, cancelled cheques and other documents that show how much money you were spending at the time or what kind of expenses were incurred during or after the expropriation process;
- Documentation regarding your family situation—for example, if there was a death in the family while it was taking place or if this event resulted in some kind of trauma for children who lived through it (e.g., having their home taken away); and
- Photographs and drawings that illustrate how you use your home (e.g., showing off a beautiful view from one side).
There are steps and opportunities you can take if your land is expropriated
Hire an experienced lawyer who specializes in this area of law who can help with appealing to either the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal or the Ontario Land Tribunal. You may want to seek legal advice before going through this process as well as when negotiating or preparing documents such as affidavits supporting your case if things go wrong later on down the road.
Contact the Toronto Expropriation Lawyers at Baker & Company in Toronto for Guidance on Expropriation
Contact the highly experienced Toronto expropriation lawyers at Baker & Company. For more than 30 years we have advised property and landowners and ensured that they were being adequately compensated following an expropriation. Call us at 416-777-0100 or contact us online for a free consultatio