Lack of equal treatment in compulsory land acquisition by the central government
Despite previous criticism of shortcomings, differences persist in government agencies’ treatment of property owners who are forced to give up or concede use of their land. Above all, it concerns the disparities in how compensation is determined, according to the Swedish National Audit Office’s audit.
The Swedish National Audit Office has reviewed how the central government manages various forms of compulsory land acquisition. The audit shows that much has improved since 2005 – when the Swedish National Audit Office last audited this area – but that certain problems persist.
The largest shortcoming is the differences in how government agencies determine economic compensation for the property owners. These differences are related to how the government agencies process compensation for legal representation, fixed compensation for voluntary acquisition, voluntary bonuses and whether the compensation should be adjusted upwards after the valuation date.
“Most compulsory land acquisitions are voluntary. However, the property owner’s room to negotiate is limited. Since the State can ultimately take the land by force, uniformity, transparency and predictability are important elements,” says Auditor General Helena Lindberg.
Furthermore, the audit shows that it is not always clear what considerations the agencies made to determine the land value and other factors that form the basis of the compensation. The valuation methods applied by the agencies leave room for other assessments and interpretations. In addition, the valuations are not always based on established and current knowledge on how the market value will be affected.
“The option of compulsory land acquisition is important for the process of community planning, but is also an intrusive measure for the people affected. Voluntary agreements are also problematic when agencies apply different interpretations of the underlying regulations,” says Anneli Josefsson, project leader of the audit.
A partial explanation of the problems is that certain methods used for evaluating land are based on outdated provisions. This mainly concerns the 1974 arable land standard and the 1983 agricultural standard.
Recommendations in brief
The Swedish National Audit Office recommends that the Government review how compensation of compulsory land acquisition can be managed more uniformly. This can be done by commissioning agencies with numerous compulsory land acquisition cases with drawing up common principles.
The Government should also specify which agency should administer and update the 1974 arable land standard or the valuation method that may replace this standard. Trafikverket (Swedish Transport Administration) is recommended to update the 1983 agricultural standard.
See the report for the full recommendations.
Different forms of compulsory land acquisition
The central government as well as municipalities and private actors conduct activities that present a need to claim private land, ultimately by force. This is about society’s need for railways, roads and power lines as well as nature and culture conservation.
There are a number of laws that contain provisions about claiming land or rights by force, known as compulsory land acquisition. However, most cases of compulsory land acquisition are resolved through voluntary agreement. Those who are subject to a claim for their property are entitled to compensation for their financial loss. Every year, the state pays large sums in compensation for various forms of compulsory land acquisition.
Press contact: Olle Castelius, phone: +46 8-5171 40 04.
Presskontakt: Olle Castelius , telefon: 08-5171 42 06.
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