Compensation for compulsory acquisition

Compensation for compulsory acquisition

by George Coucounis

“The claim for compulsory acquisition is made before the District Court”

THE Republic as a compensating authority usually delays to offer or pay the property owner the compensation he is entitled due to compulsory acquisition. After the publication of the order of acquisition, the owner has the right within 75 days from its notification to him to file a recourse before the Administrative Court for its annulment or to submit an application to the District Court in order to determine the compensation payable to him. The jurisdiction of the Administrative Court according to article 146.1 of the Constitution is limited to the review of a decision, act or omission of any body, authority or person exercising an executive or administrative function on the grounds that it is contrary to the Constitution or the law or has been in excess or abuse of power. The Administrative Court, according to article 146.4, may uphold, in whole or in part, the contested decision or act or omission or declare it invalid, that the decision or act lacks any effect and that what has been omitted must be executed.

However, the determination of the compensation is made by the District Court where the property is located, unless there is an agreement between the interested party with the acquiring authority. If there is no agreement, then both the acquiring authority and the owner may apply to the Court to determine the compensation payable. The owner of a property affected by compulsory acquisition, if he seeks to have the compensation payable determined, is not entitled to apply to the Administrative Court because it lacks jurisdiction and the matter is not directed against an executory administrative act.

The Administrative Court in a judgment issued on 29.1.2021 examined the recourse of co-owners who claimed an order of the Court against the acquiring authority that its failure to pay as soon as possible the fair and reasonable compensation for the compulsory acquisition of their properties was invalid and it lacks any effect; they also claimed an order for active compliance of the authority in order to execute what had been omitted and in case of non-compliance, the imposition of sanctions. The compulsory acquisition affected their properties due to road construction in 1999 and the compensation has been pending ever since.

The Republic being the acquiring authority raised preliminary objections that the recourse was not directed against an executory administrative act but falls within the sphere of private law, where the civil Courts have jurisdiction and evades the review of the Administrative Court. Only administrative acts are challenged before the Administrative Court and no issues concerning the payment of compensation or other monetary disputes are brought before it; the recourse in question was submitted before a Court having no jurisdiction. The Administrative Court in its decision decided that the issue was of public order that could be examined ex officio by the Court itself. It referred to the provisions of the Constitution and the law on the establishment and the operation of the Administrative Court, deciding that the owners did not have any complaint against a decision, act or omission of an authority, something which in itself showed that their claims were outside the scope of article 146.1 of the Constitution. Taking into account the powers exhaustively provided by the Constitution and assigned to the Administrative Court, article 146.4, the remedies claimed by the owners did not fall within its jurisdiction. This provision exhaustively gives the extent of the powers of the Administrative Court as a Court of annulment and no other power, in particular the possibility to an applicant to enforce such a decision.

The Court concluded that the contested act or failure to pay the compensation for the compulsory acquisition of the properties does not fall within the sphere of public law but of private law and therefore it could not be challenged by a recourse. It referred to case law of the Council of State of Greece that if the subject matter of the dispute is limited to a claim for a certain amount of money, the civil Courts have jurisdiction. In a relevant decision of the Supreme Court, it was stated that where the administration refuses to recognise any right to compensation or disagrees as to its amount, there is always a dispute under article 23.3 of the Constitution and the civil Courts have jurisdiction. The Administrative Court held that the owners inadmissibly chose to seek satisfaction of their claim for compensation for the compulsory acquisition of their properties through a recourse to the Administrative Court and not to the civil District Court and consequently, it dismissed the recourse.