The valuation of properties is a yearly practice in South Australia and across other Australian states. This yearly affair is important for landowners as the valuation is used to determine a number of other rates and charges including water and sewerage rates, emergency services levy, council rates and also land taxes. It is also during this time that the State Government sees a higher amount of dispute cases between landowners and the Valuer-General.

During the land valuation, the Valuer-General values the land and, in New South Wales for example, issues a Notice of Valuation to landowners. If a landowner objects to the new valuation, they may then appeal to the State Government. The cost of appeal may vary across states. However, it is usually low with some states even offering this for free.

In South Australia, the landowner that files the appeal is entitled to a hearing in the Supreme Court alongside a compulsory teleconference of 30 minutes with a Supreme Court Judge. At this point, the landowner might feel that they are getting good value for money due to the low initial cost involved to get time from a Supreme Court Judge while not having to involve any lawyers along the way. However, what many fail to realise is that other costs can mount up significantly for them and also for the State Government, all over a dispute amount of probably less than $5,000.

If you think about it, a dispute over a land valuation of $700K and one that is $900K is simply over the amount of land tax the landowner has to pay. Calculating for the tax amount from a $700K valuation and a $900K valuation, you will see that the difference in amount of payable taxes is less than $5,000.

Going into litigation may easily incur costs greater than $5,000, especially if the dispute drags out and lawyers have to be brought in. Other costs that add up also come in the form of time and effort spent on both the valuation and alternate valuation, hearings, waiting for the Valuer-General to respond to the objection, and preparing for the compulsory teleconference. Moreover, there is no statutory time frame for the Valuer-General to respond to the objection lodged by the landowner. This may lead to the case dragging on even further, wastinglandowners’ time and efforts even before a resolution can be reached.

In this context, mediation presents the viable alternative that is more efficient and cost effective for landowners, the Valuer-General, as well as the State Government.

Why mediation can help

  • Cost effective – Mediation helps save time and effort for all parties since the two differing valuations will be confirmed prior to the joint session. This ensures that both the landowner and the Valuer-General are ready before the joint session begins and hence sets the stage for a smoother resolution process.
  • Informal setting encourages open dialogue – Mediation makes it possible for a more informal approach where each party gets equal opportunities to state their case. Such discussions are also held in a secure and private environment.
  • Joint resolution – Both the Valuer-General and landowner have the ability to resolve the case without having to involve solicitors or the Supreme Court. Since a majority of these cases are disputes over differences in tax valuesthat amount to less than $5000, the landowners, Valuer-General and also the State Government certainly benefit from quicker judgements passed with lesser money spent overall.

Situations of disputes arising over landowners disagreeing with the newly set valuation on their property occur frequently in all states across Australia. While landowners see little costs in filing cases with the State Government, they often fail to account for costs that arise during the case, including time and effort spent. Instead, mediation should be considered as a resolution option since the process of mediation enables both parties to achieve a joint resolution over the valuation thus saving time and money. At SHAW Mediation, we see the value in using mediation to helpresolve such cases so that every party walks away satisfied with the outcome. If you need help in getting a fair value for your land, let’s talk!