Considerations for Clients Contacted by Utility Companies - Louise Stones emphasises the importance of knowing your rights concerning utility company access on your land.
Given that many landowners have a utility apparatus of some sort crossing their land, it is vital that the land occupier knows their rights when it comes to utility companies taking access for repairs, maintenance, renewals, or new schemes. Louise Stones, Graduate Surveyor is keen to highlight what is key for a client to consider, should they be contacted by utility companies.
Electricity power lines, water, sewer and gas pipelines all form utility apparatus benefitting from a range of statutory powers to enter private land. As Louise emphasises, acts such as the Electricity Act 1989, Water Industry Act 1991 and the Gas Act 1986 are in place to convey key details.
Louise continues: “Where statutory powers exist that allow a third party to require right in or over land, the owner/occupier has the legal entitlement to make a claim for compensation. The cost of being professionally represented is also part of the claimant’s claim. What this means is that when your agent is working on your behalf and representing you during the entire claim process, it should not cost you anything.”
There are a wealth of different legal procedures that must be correctly followed to allow any statutory undertaker to enter private land. In the first instance, it is crucial to review the proposed scheme and ascertain the statutory stipulations that are being relied upon to take access to the private land.
Louise continues: “Where the works are to be carried out, a record of condition should then be taken. This can be used as evidence during the claim negotiation stage. This record should be correctly documented and signed by both the landowner/occupier and the agent from the utility company, as acceptance to the pre-entry condition.”
When considering compensation, Louise says there are a number of important issues to consider:
“Presenting a compensation claim is based on putting the owner/occupier in a position that they would have been if have the works had never happened. This claim should also include time and resources spent on the matter by the claimant. All of the claimant’s time should be carefully recorded, for instance in a diary format, which can then be used as evidence and claimed for as management time lost.
“Here at H&H Land & Estates, we have recently been involved in a number of Utility Company Claims. The most recent have been the replacement of a water main across both horse grazing land and arable land. Given that both of these sites benefitted from development potential, this had to be taken into consideration. So, when making these submissions for compensation on behalf of our client, the claim included:
- Crop loss on the arable land, including a percentage reduction in yields for three future years (100% in the first year, 50% in the second year and 25% in the third year), plus the value of the straw.
- BPS loss and the time related to amend forms.
- Reinstatement work, including repairing damage to gateways and fencing.
- Additional cultivations to land due to the permanent depreciation of land value for a new water main. In this case, an easement recognition payment was agreed. Given that the land is considered amber in the SHLAA (Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment), this was calculated at 50% of the potential development value.
“This was a detailed claim which, while working together with the utility company, has resulted in a fair and reasonable outcome: one which was favourable for our client after the works had completed.”
Louise concludes: “Whether you are a farmer, a commercial property owner or a residential property owner, when utility companies are accessing your property under statutory power it really is key that you protect your own interests. Utility companies expect to compensate for losses, so as soon as you become aware of any potential scheme impacting your land seek professional advice. This will ensure that all potential losses are identified and claimed for.”