The Land Court of Queensland in three recent decisions has highlighted a number of important issues for land owners seeking to challenge valuations under the Land Valuation Act.
Onus of Proof
In Rea v Valuer-General, the Land Court highlighted that there is now a “more even playing field” between appellants and the Valuer-General in regard to valuation appeals.
Under the former Valuation of Land Act, valuations made by the Valuer-General were deemed to be correct until proven otherwise upon objection or appeal. This provision was not carried over into the current Act which now provides that the appellant has the onus of proof for the each of the grounds of appeal.
The Land Court in Rea held that this requires appeals to be determined on the balance of probabilities. Relying upon expert evidence, the appellant in Rea was successful in satisfying the Court in relation to some of the grounds of appeal resulting in the Court allowing the appeal and reducing the valuation.
A separate appeal by the same appellant, Rea v Valuer-General however illustrates the difficulties still faced by appellants and common mistakes made by self-represented parties.
In the second appeal, the appellant was unsuccessful in challenging the valuation on the basis that the subject valuation was wrong having regard to the valuation of surrounding lands. Known as ‘relativity’, this is a common argument raised in objections and appeals.
The appellant did not rely on any valuation or other expert evidence. Although the Land Court accepted that the appellant’s complaints were genuinely held, the Court had no hesitation accepting the valuation evidence for the Valuer-General and found the appellant’s evidence in no meaningful way challenged the Valuer-General’s expert.
The Court used the decision to reiterate the challenges faced by appellants who rely on relativity as a ground of appeal. Put simply, it is not enough for an appellant to show that the value of the subject land is out of sync with surrounding values. They need to go further and demonstrate that the surrounding values are correct and the value of the subject land is incorrect.
The third case of Nucifora v Valuer-Generalis a timely reminder of the Court’s preference for sales evidence and that the direct comparison method will usually be the best method of valuation.
In Nucifora the appellant sought to argue that the valuation of the subject land was wrong having regard to site constraints and surrounding values. The appellant did not rely on any expert evidence.
The Valuer-General in contrast called upon an expert valuer who had assessed the value of the subject land using the direct comparison approach. Whilst the Court expressed reservations about an aspect of the expert’s valuation, the Court found that none of the sales evidence advanced on behalf of the Valuer-General was in any way effectively challenged by the appellant (who failed to identify any sales).
The Court noted that the appellant, suffering the disadvantage of no legal training and little experience in cross-examination, failed to make any inroads into the views adopted by the Valuer-General’s expert.
With the objection period for new annual valuations ending on 20 May 2013, these recent decisions provide a timely reminder of the need to carefully prepare objections and appeals, as well as highlighting the risks of proceeding without appropriate legal and valuation advice.