Saturday, June 25, 2005

Property Rights: US v UK

Brits have restrictions on their property rights, inherited from their socialist past. But they are not as extreme as the new US law.

Here's what my local government (Council) says about Taking (Brits call it Compulsory Purchase):

What are compulsory purchase and statutory rights?

This is when the government, local council or utility company has the legal right to buy or take rights over your private property if it falls within a public or private construction project such as:

Airport expansions
Housing developments
Electricity pylons and cables
Flood defence works
Sewer, water or gas pipe schemes
Rail or road building projects

Different compulsory purchase or statutory powers are needed to implement the above schemes. For example, water pipes are laid under statutory rights under the Water Industry Act 1991 and a road bypass will have its own compulsory purchase order through the Acquisition of Land Act 1981.

In all cases, the owners and occupiers of the properties to be acquired or affected by the scheme will be served Notices, with differing expiry times. All the schemes provide compensation to owners and occupiers directly affected by the scheme.

The kicker is the "private housing development". But the Brits have extensive legal recourse:

The right of appeal against a certificate under section 18 of the 1961 Act, exercisable by both the acquiring authority and the person having the interest in the land who has applied for the certificate, is to the Secretary of State.

Any person aggrieved by the Secretary of State's decision on the appeal may challenge its validity in the High Court within a period of six weeks from the date of the decision.

And if the owner's claim is upheld, the loser pays all legal fees.

So in both the US and UK, middle class people with money are safe in their homes. Poorer people are at risk in both countries. But Brits only have to worry about their property being taken for housing, whereas Americans can now lose theirs to any organization that promises to pay more property taxes - like Pfizer Inc.

The saving grace is that some US states limit eminent domain:

Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, South Dakota and Wyoming (have never allowed) land taken by eminent domain for private use.

However:

...the worst record of abuse of private-use takings are California, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan and Ohio.

Kansas is explained by its infestation by lefty judicial despots (they just mandated a tax raise). Ohio seems odd - I thought it was a decent red state.