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How much of your backyard belongs to you?

By John Thistleton - 7 November 2017 5

Cowper and Goldsmith Streets in Goulburn are among the inner places where slivers of land have the potential to generate a new minimum rate notice.

If you have ever suffered a tiny, unexpected and painful splinter you will empathise with a key sector of Goulburn’s property market.

Small slivers of land are surfacing in the redevelopment of inner city land, and like tiny splinters, are proving painful and difficult to remedy.

The slivers can be as narrow as a fence line – 70mm – and can increase substantially in size depending on features built on the subject or adjoining land. Yet they are enough to catch people by surprise.

In recent times slivers of land have arisen in Eleanor, Cowper, Joshua, Prince, and Goldsmith Streets. Goulburn council is aware of four such slivers. The potential for many more exists across the older areas of Goulburn and indeed across NSW.

So, what causes these troublesome slivers? Computer software is delivering more accurate record keeping, at a time when the NSW Government is encouraging infill development to maximise the benefits of existing infrastructure like roads, water and power services.

These factors have come to the fore on land subject to limited or Old System title under which the Land Titles Office issued titles based on a description of boundaries. There is no guarantee that dimensions and areas shown on limited title plans are available to the registered proprietor as they can be impacted by features such as fences and buildings.

While Old System or limited title has been superseded by Torrens title, many parts of Goulburn retain titles based on very old descriptions. It is only when a survey is undertaken by a registered surveyor that the titles office will guarantee title.

Over the years, as some neighbours became more active on blocks with gardens, shed extensions or chook yards, boundary fencing sometimes moved. In many instances, this fencing may not be erected on boundaries and the aforementioned structures may even stand on adjoining land. The slivers of land on which their activity encroached does not come to light until many years later, if at all, and when it does their long-term occupation or enclosure can be deemed to demonstrate ownership.

When a block of land is redeveloped and a fresh survey is registered with the titles office, the ensuing paper work not only identifies the sliver of land, but can generate a rate notice to the documentary landholder. Can you imagine a council ignoring an opportunity to charge rates? Not likely.

Goulburn Mulwaree Council is awaiting advice from the NSW Valuer General before determining if rates charged so far will be refunded.

“There is no provision in the Local Government Act that makes these properties exempt from rates, and, in accordance with the Act all parcels of land must be rated unless they are exempt,” says a council spokesman. “Therefore, unless the nil valuation is backdated to a previous rating base date, we are of the view that legally, the rates must stand,” the council said.

The Valuer General is aware of the problem. “The Registrar General, Surveyor General and Valuer General are working together to find a resolution to this issue,” a spokesman says. “In the interim, the Valuer General has placed a moratorium on valuing newly created residue parcels.” He says consultation with local councils and other government authorities will occur before any final position being taken.

“The title office wants to more accurately identify land,” says a Goulburn property professional. “But slivers should not be rateable, the Value General gives them a zero value, but they still generate a not insignificant minimum rate.”

What’s Your opinion?


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5 Responses to
How much of your backyard belongs to you?
Ghettosmurf87 12:58 pm 13 Nov 17

dungfungus said :

Angela Cramp said :

This is wrong in so many ways. We have recently been allotted one of these slivers, on a property we purchased 25 years ago. The boundaries are the same as when we purchased, and when the survey was done in mid 90’s for a DA. We subdivided 4 yrs ago and ended up with an extra title for the sliver. Now we are being charged $500 rates on 2.58 sqm with a land value of $110. To add insult to injury this 2.58 sqm is in our next door neighbours yard and we don’t even have access to land. I’m wondering if we refuse to pay the rates will the council sell this parcel to recover their dues. That’s my solution.

If it is rateable, you should be able to build on it. Can you sell it to your neighbour for $1.00?
I would “walk away from it”, let the government repossess it and see them try to sell it.
Yet another ACT government administrative shemozzle.

What has the ACT government got to do with land in Goulburn that is administered by the Goulburn Mulwaree Council in accordance with NSW State & Local Government legislation?

It’s like you criticise the ACT government by default first, before ever reading or trying to comprehend what is in front of you…

dungfungus 11:57 am 09 Nov 17

Angela Cramp said :

This is wrong in so many ways. We have recently been allotted one of these slivers, on a property we purchased 25 years ago. The boundaries are the same as when we purchased, and when the survey was done in mid 90’s for a DA. We subdivided 4 yrs ago and ended up with an extra title for the sliver. Now we are being charged $500 rates on 2.58 sqm with a land value of $110. To add insult to injury this 2.58 sqm is in our next door neighbours yard and we don’t even have access to land. I’m wondering if we refuse to pay the rates will the council sell this parcel to recover their dues. That’s my solution.

If it is rateable, you should be able to build on it. Can you sell it to your neighbour for $1.00?
I would “walk away from it”, let the government repossess it and see them try to sell it.
Yet another ACT government administrative shemozzle.

Angela Cramp 10:21 pm 08 Nov 17

This is wrong in so many ways. We have recently been allotted one of these slivers, on a property we purchased 25 years ago. The boundaries are the same as when we purchased, and when the survey was done in mid 90’s for a DA. We subdivided 4 yrs ago and ended up with an extra title for the sliver. Now we are being charged $500 rates on 2.58 sqm with a land value of $110. To add insult to injury this 2.58 sqm is in our next door neighbours yard and we don’t even have access to land. I’m wondering if we refuse to pay the rates will the council sell this parcel to recover their dues. That’s my solution.

bj_ACT 4:56 pm 08 Nov 17

I agree good article. These are real issues, especially for the new ACT Rates system which places such an emphasis and rates charging factor on block size.

Residents in outer suburbs are getting ripped off in comparison to the old inner Suburbs, the complicated details and the picture in the link below will prove why.

I used to live in Kambah, but luckily for us we had the finances to move to a nicer house and better area in Deakin. What got me during our move about 5 years ago, was the crazy over valuation for Rates purposes on the Block in Kambah when compared to the new block in Deakin.

Our Deakin block is only 780sqm according to planning (but it has a huge and useable nature strip full of garden and street trees). Our Kambah block was 958sqm but only had a tiny nature strip.

So while our 4 Bedroom 2 Bathroom house in Kambah sold for $450k, our new 5 Bedroom 2 Bathroom house in Deakin was bought for $990k. According to the differences in the actual sales and the land valuation by ACT Government, the additional Bedroom was worth $300k in valuation reduction due to the building improvements. Crazy!

Also, Our Deakin block including the useable Nature Strip is over 1000sqm, but the Kambah Block is under 1000sqm. But according to the actual land owned for Rates purposes, the Kambah block is almost 200sqm larger. Crazy!

Here are the screenshots from Allhomes and actmapi that shows: “despite owning a home that is double the value of our old home, I only pay a third extra in annual Rates”. That’s Good for me, but tough on poorer homeowners in the Suburbs of Tuggeranong or West Belconnen who have been hit with huge rate hikes.

https://imgur.com/a/hNg08

dungfungus 10:20 pm 07 Nov 17

Good article John. It may also surprise readers to know who now owns the power poles in their backyards.

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