Landowners under siege

By Vern McClelland

February 16, 2017 12:00 AM

BOMBARDED Landowners are increasingly feeling inundated with infringement of their rights. Where are they to turn? Our man Vern has some of the answers.

I’ve had a rash of phone calls and visits lately from landowners who don’t know where to turn to when needing solid advice on their rights.
The subjects under discussion have ranged from delinquent tenants and access across non-owned land to caving pipeline trenches and aggregate companies reluctant to remediate a site after removing the gravel.
While not sure why I get these calls, I do my personal best to help them sort through the problem at hand and provide a suggestion or two of where they may be able to go for better information.
So I was very pleased to learn of two local businessmen, Todd Plandowski and Jason Ross, former land agents who for years have worked on behalf of various energy companies, recently launched a new enterprise called Section 25 Management, focused on the representational needs of landowners.
It’s about time!
Farmers, ranchers, and rural citizens in general deserve to be able to retain someone to be on their side when faced with the deep bench of personnel coming at them from an energy company, crown corporation, municipal or provincial government department.
I like to think I am somewhat experienced in negotiation; after all it’s a daily element of my workload.
But the rules guiding contract deliberation in organized real estate are clearly defined and if you want to call yourself a Realtor, a registrant must adhere to the code of ethics that come with the title or potentially lose the right to practice.
In addition, there is oversight from regulatory bodies who stakeholders can turn to with their concerns.
Here in the midwest, it’s either the Real Estate Council of Alberta or the Saskatchewan Real Estate Commission, depending on the which province the property in question is in.
However, many of the challenges faced by rural landowners come from entities that may not abide by a similar set of rules in their quest to complete a project.
It used to be most farmers would welcome the extra income those black tanks provided and simply accept the compensation being offered.
Most did not read the fine print in the contract or take the time to research what the market rate really was for the use of land like theirs.
Today, as farms get bigger, landowners are becoming more skilled at asking questions.
Still, there is a significant deficit of knowledge about property rights or current compensation rates and it sure isn’t the job of the company’s agent across the kitchen table to disclose.
What service providers like Section 25 Management propose to do is create a network of information which can be utilized by their clients in support of negotiations for fair compensation and responsible actions by those who wish to use the land.
This is no different than what Realtors in Canada have already done through their real estate boards and the Multiple Listing Service.
Ask any one of us about the value of a 1,400 sq-ft, 10-year-old modified bi-level on the west side of Lloydminster or in the Town of Lashburn, and we will draw on the recent sales of comparable properties in the MLS database, adding and subtracting various attributes of the subject property.
But if you want to know what a two-acre petroleum surface lease with access road should rent for today in the RM of Wilton, forget it.
Like the amount of sex between two consenting adults, only the participants know for sure!
And whenever there’s a lack of good information, a vacuum is created that someone will surely attempt to take advantage of.
Every week I hear of wind farms, municipal lagoon expansions, utility corridors masquerading as pipelines, zoning bylaw changes; the list goes on.
Landowners deserved to be informed of their rights and must work to understand their options.
In our British based system of common law, the Queen has the Right of Eminent Domain, and if she wants to build a superhighway across your front lawn, it shall be done.
But even the Crown is required to play by certain rules of a just society and provide adequate compensation; not so the engaging, persuasive pitchman who, with just one signature from the owner, will restrict how the land can be used for decades.

Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.vernmcclelland.com or by following the Midwest Group Lloydminster on Facebook.

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