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March 03, 2016

Learning of a Potential Expropriation

Landowners often learn of a potential expropriation long before it actually takes place. Owners will sometimes become aware that their lands are to be acquired/expropriated for an infrastructure project through a public consultation or information session.  These events are often referred to as a Public Information Centre (“PIC”) and organized by the expropriating authority.

Owners can also become aware of a proposed taking through informal discussions with the authority’s representatives.  Prior to initiating the formal expropriating process, authorities will often contact the impacted landowners in an effort to negotiate an amicable acquisition of their property.  In some situations the parties are able to negotiate values and terms that are agreeable, enabling the matter to be resolved without expropriation.

Where an amicable agreement cannot be reached and/or the project goals or timelines do not permit extended negotiations, the authority may decide to proceed with the formal expropriation process. In order to initiate the formal process, an expropriating authority must obtain permission to expropriate from an “approving authority”, which is a political body or entity such as a municipal council or a provincial or federal cabinet minister.  At this stage, the authority must provide impacted landowners with notice of the authority’s application to expropriate.

This notice is called a ‘Notice of Application for Approval to Expropriate Land’. A survey referred to as a Reference Plan will usually accompany the Notice of Application and show the particular lands that are to be expropriated. The Notice initiates the formal expropriation process and triggers the requirements and rights set out in the Expropriations Act.

The legislation requires that the expropriating authority serve the Notice of Application on all registered owners, which include all parties with a registered interest on title to the lands.  In addition to serving the Notice of Application on all registered owners, the expropriating authority is required to publish the Notice once a week for three consecutive weeks in a newspaper with general circulation in the locality in which the lands are situated.

This means that there are commonly three ways in which the owner may learn of the proposed expropriation: through initial contact and/or meetings with representatives of the authority concerning the acquisition of the property; receipt of the Notice of Application by registered mail; and/or reading of the expropriation in the newspaper.  For an overview of the expropriation process see: “Expropriation: The Legal Landscape Since Antrim

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