THERE is a disparity in the valuations of land expected to be commandeered by the Government to build the Curepe Interchange at the Southern Main Road.
However, this should not be so as, according to several experts, both land owners and government-sanctioned valuators should be using factors from the same source – the current market – to determine how much the parcels of land are worth
While the controversy surrounding the acquisition of the land has raised many questions, one question has not been fully answered – why is there such a vast difference in the estimated value of the land?
A resident affected by the acquisition wondered the same thing as she spoke to Sunday Newsday on Friday.
She said Curepe residents solicited the services of three valuators, who were on a list provided to them by Government. The valuators came to a consensus on the value of the land which was, on average, about $260 per square foot.
Sunday Newsday was told the valuators’ advice was taken and forwarded to the Ministry of Works and Transport at the end of 2017. But the next year, Government submitted an offer to the residents, in which the land was valued at about $175 per square foot.
“When we got that offer, it was so low that we had to object,” an affected resident said.
Sources said while the residents had submitted their valuators’ findings in 2017, it is still not clear when Government surveyed the lands. Sunday Newsday understands that at least one valuation was done by Government, after a section three order under the Land Acquisition Act was published in 2013.
Since that year, Government has been negotiating with Curepe residents over compensation for land to build an interchange.
Last week, the legal department of the Ministry of Works and Transport, in its continued efforts to claim the land, issued a request to the marshal of the High Court for warrants against five residents, which could allow Government to remove them by force.
While the ministry has not yet received word from the marshal, section four notices were issued to Ronsan’s Services Ltd; the property of Rudi, Rajev, Vibha and Sanjeev Singh; the property of Hilda Ramkelawan; and the property of Devnanand Rampersad. They occupy lots 19, 42, 40 and 38 respectively.
According to several experts on valuation, the value of land is determined basically by one factor – the market price.
Institute of Surveyors president Dr Sunil Lalloo said the land is valued in the same way whether it is for a private sale or a government acquisition, and for someone to arrive at a value for a property, they would have to compare it to actual transactions.
“Let’s say we are valuing land in Curepe. We would have to look at what land actually sells for,” Lalloo explained. “So you would have to see what deeds are registered for the property recently to determine what the market is willing to pay for the land there.”
Other than that, the private acquisition of a parcel of land and government acquisition differs only in the process, which is explained in the Land Acquisition Act, passed in 1994 and amended in 2000.
Former commissioner of valuations Kenneth Subran explained that before the amendments were made, people whose land had been commissioned for development would have to surrender their land before making claims for compensation, and this caused a keepback because there was a shortage of surveyors at the time.
“So what we did was a thing called private treaty, which was under the shadow of compulsory purchase,” Subran said. “In other words, we operate like it was a compulsory purchase, and if we reached an agreement we would buy the land like any other parcel. If not and Government goes through with acquisition, we continue the process.
“What they are doing now is using the private treaty and assuming that it could mean anything. They have been going to pay people who are selling on the side of the road, and all of this has complicated the matter... The Government messed it up.”
Subran also said that the law of acquisition operates on market value. He noted that some added factors may be looked at, for example the cost of disturbance in moving out of a home, and others may be ignored, for example the potential rise or drop in the value of the land if construction on the land were to take place.
At any rate, Sunday Newsday was told, regardless of whether it is Government or the land owners making the claims, all claims must be corroborated by actual sale evidence.
Sunday Newsday tried to make that determination by visiting the Land Registry at the Ministry of Legal Affairs’ official website, but was restricted by a paywall.
When you go to the Land Registry page you are prompted to sign in if you have an account, and if not, you will be required to sign up. After registering, you are given access to a home page where there is a section titled, Land Registry Search.
Below that, your available balance is shown, and you are given links to go to search for land that has been registered and the price it was registered under. But when you click Search you are prompted to decide whether to purchase a single index search, or a multiple index search. If you do not purchase it, you will not get any information.