Author: REIWA President Damian CollinsWhen looking to buy your next property, most people would assume that you have total control over the property where it is freehold. However, in some cases other parties maintain an interest or right in the property which could limit what can be done on the land. Inquiry into private property rightsThis can be confusing and frustrating for property owners which is why the West Australian Government recently conducted an inquiry into private property rights and the impact infringements on those rights can have. The inquiry concentrated on two core issues, with the first focusing on the disclosure of interests and encumbrances that affect property. This means when a buyer purchases a property, they should be aware of any potential restrictions that are applied to the use of the land. Disclosure when sellingThese may vary in significance and can include water or sewer mains that may occasionally require access or bushfire prone risk ratings that potentially limit what can be built on the land and where it can be built. While a real estate agent is legally obliged to ascertain and disclose all facts material to the transaction, some interests are difficult to find out, which can lead to buyers potentially missing out on vital information. Prospective buyers have the option to purchase Landgate’s Property Interest Report that details restrictions that may affect the land. However, these reports are zone specific and are not necessarily based on the individual property and restrictions that could affect the value of a property can be missed. Fair and reasonable compensationThe other core issue is the inability of property owners to access fair and reasonable compensation when government interference affects the value of the property. In some circumstances the government is required to either buy the property back or restrict what can be done on it. This may reduce the overall worth and devalue it for when you decide to sell it. Some of the reasons why they might restrict what you can do could be because of environmental factors such as bush fire rezoning, health and safety issues or major infrastructure developments. Inquiry outcomeREIWA provided recommendations during the inquiry to ensure the legal system protects the rights of property owners and buyers, and provides fair compensation based on market values. The report arising from the inquiry recommends that clarity, security and fairness is needed to restore the balance in private property rights and that changes to various pieces of legislation are needed to better protect property rights. From here, the WA Government will assess the legislation and look into any potential updates. More information REIWA will continue to advocate for an owner’s right to enjoy the use of their property, and any limitations on land use should only be where there is a clear and substantial community benefit. To read more, make sure to view understanding what it means when your property rights change or to find out more on REIWA's advocacy efforts, visit our advocacy page.