The following Common Questions and their answers relate to Municipal acquisitions and disposals of real property:
When the municipality acquires property
Why does the municipality require property?
The Halifax Regional Municipality may acquire property that it requires for its operational purposes or for public purposes. The municipality, as part of an approved capital works project, acquires land for such purposes as:
- infrastructure like roads, sidewalks, and bridges
- new municipal facilities such as community centres, fire stations, transit terminals, and park lands
The Corporate Real Estate Office works in cooperation with municipal client departments to acquire the property or property rights needed to accommodate a particular municipal project.
Why my property?
During the design phase of any project, research into the abutting property owners is conducted to help identify those effected by the proposed project. Following identification, a communication plan is developed and delivered by the Capital Project Team that is responsible for the scope of work.
How is my property valued?
The municipality acquires property at fair market value by obtaining the services of an accredited appraiser to assist in establishing the fair Market value and related compensation for the “land” required for the Project. In some cases the “land” may be the entire property, or a portion of the property, depending on the project requirement.
What is the process and how long does it take?
When the municipal government acquires new property, the following process takes place:
- identify and contact effected property owners
- procure the services of qualified appraiser
- present Letter of Offer to property owner
- negotiate agreement with property owner
- obtain appropriate municipal approval for acquisition of property
- present an Agreement of Purchase and Sale to the property owner
- conduct any required survey work and due diligence for the property
- close on the property acquisition
Depending on the priority of the project, the acquisition process for the property can range from 2–6 months from start to finish.
What if a negotiated agreement cannot be reached?
In the majority of cases, the municipality is able to negotiate an agreement with the property owner. If an agreement cannot be reached, and Regional Council considers it necessary to acquire the property for municipal purposes, the Municipality, as a designated authority under the Expropriation Act, can acquire the property by expropriation. An expropriation is the taking of land without the consent of the owner by an expropriating authority that exercises its statutory powers.
If someone has encroached on municipal land or has been maintaining it in past years, does that parcel of land now belong to the encroacher/resident through adverse possession or "squatter’s rights"?
No, adverse possession does not apply to any government property. And the municipality, at any time, can ask the proponent to relocate the encroachment and return the land to its natural state at the proponent’s expense.
What happens if municipal land next to my residence or area becomes unsightly?
Call 3-1-1 and advise the service representative of the matter. Also call 3-1-1 if:
- the trees on municipal land are falling down or you’d like them removed for some reason
- you would like to put a sign on municipally-owned property
What happens to land that is not being used by the municipality?
Although it may appear that municipal land is not being used, it may be considered a passive, conservation, open space, or green space parcel of land that may never have any other function. There are cases, however, when the Municipality no longer has a municipal requirement for specific properties, which triggers a surplus property review process pursuant to Administrative Order 50.
When the municipality disposes of property
What is Surplus Property?
A ‘surplus property’ is one that, following inter-departmental review, has been identified as surplus to municipal requirements, and approved as ‘Surplus’ by Regional Council for disposal by ‘Category’ through Administrative Order 50 (AO50), Respecting the Disposal of Surplus Real Property.
What is AO50?
AO50 is the Administrative Order Respecting the Disposal of Surplus Real Property. AO50 was approved by Regional Council in 2013. It sets out the process by which municipally-owned properties are reviewed and approved surplus to the Municipality’s requirements.
For more detail about Administrative Order 50, please visit the following webpage:
How long does this process take?
Corporate Real Estate and municipal Business Units undertake regular reviews. The process and timing of review can vary in duration, depending on the individual nature of the property, urgency or volume of requests. After properties are approved as surplus by Council, they are posted to the municipal website for disposal.
How is the purchase price determined?
Surplus property is sold at fair market value as required by the Halifax Regional Charter. Exceptions to this may include:
- Properties identified as ‘Community Interest’, and may be sold at less-than-market value to registered not-for-profit organizations. For further detail about this category of property, please visit the following page: https://www.halifax.ca/business/doing-business-halifax/community-interest-surplus-properties-disposal
- ‘Remnant’ properties that have limited or no utility and may be sold at less-than-market value as set by Regional Council.