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Wind Turbine Property Value Evidence Rejected in Aussie Court Case

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

A farmer who alleges wind turbines next door have caused a drop in adjacent property values just had his detailed record of land sales rejected by an Australian court, after the judged ruled the evidence is not an expert opinion.

Property value evidence thrown out in Bald Hills Wind Farm court battle

ABC Gippsland / By Emma Field
Posted Wed 15 Sep 2021 at 7:44pm

Evidence provided by a farmer claiming his property values dropped after a wind farm was built nearby cannot be used in a Victorian court case.

Key points:

  • Evidence to show a property’s value dropped because of the wind farm is thrown out
  • Noel Uren is claiming $200,000 and other damages in a case before the Supreme Court
  • The civil trial is also presented with 120 pages of a plaintiff’s handwritten evidence 

The revelation came on the sixth day of a potential landmark case that saw more than 100 pages of handwritten notes about wind farm noise produced as new evidence. 

Noel Uren and John Zakula are seeking damages from the Bald Hills Wind Farm near Tarwin Lower in the state’s south-east, claiming the wind turbine noise is a nuisance.

Mr Uren gave evidence this week in the Supreme Court civil trial about four properties he and his brother owned that bordered the wind farm.

The blocks were sold in 2015 and 2016 for a total of $3.53 million.

Mr Uren stayed living on one property as a tenant until March 2018.

He claims his total property value dropped by about $200,000 due to the wind farm being built nearby in 2015. 

He is seeking that amount in damages along with other damages because of the excessive noise from the turbines.

Mr Uren’s evidence to substantiate the drop in farm value was from the sale of nearby properties.

However on Tuesday, Justice Melinda Richards ruled this evidence was inadmissible because he relied on the sale of nearby land rather than the written evidence of an expert.

“The value of land and the effect of the wind farm is a matter of expert opinion; it’s not a matter where the court can piece together this on its own,” Justice Richards said.

Read more: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-09-15/property-value-evidence-thrown-out-bald-hills-wind-farm-trial/100465146

Welcome to the brave new world. Evidence of an abrupt drop in property values due to wind turbine noise is not admissible, unless accompanied by an expert opinion.

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September 16, 2021 10:14 pm

He should have bought himself the written evidence of an expert Valuer before going to Court and added the expert’s fee on the the claim for compensation..

Duker
Reply to  nicholas tesdorf
September 17, 2021 2:23 am

And made a complaint to the board that certifies Valuers over an expert opinion that flies in the face of facts from land sales.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  nicholas tesdorf
September 17, 2021 6:32 am

My experience as a long time real estate agent in the U.S. is that certified appraisals are still subject to the opinion of the appraiser. I have on several occasions had to challenge the value made in the appraisal due to the appraiser using invalid comps. Comps too far from the subject property, comps sold under duress, estimating values of differences in comps and the subject property. I have had experiences where the appraiser comes in with a prewritten value based solely on computer comps and ignores significant upgrades and improvements. Sometimes the lower value can work in the buyers favor by renegotiating a lower price than the contract price when the appraisal comes in low.
The bottom line is that property valuations are always subject to opinion.

Steve Z
Reply to  Tom in Florida
September 17, 2021 8:43 am

The value assigned to a property by an appraiser is always a matter of opinion, and frequently depends on who hired the appraiser. A seller who hires an appraiser will want the appraised value to be as high as possible, in order to justify selling at a higher price. A buyer who is already under contract will want the appraisal to be at least high enough so that the bank will approve a mortgage, while a low appraisal would give the buyer an excuse to back out of the contract.

Property owners who are not trying to sell will probably prefer an appraisal to come in low, so that they pay less property taxes on the appraised value. This is why some people make indoor improvements to their houses in secret without alerting the taxing authorities, who only find out when the home is sold at a profit.

If property owners near a wind farm are complaining about noise, this is nearly equivalent to property owners living near a noisy highway, or under the approach lane to an airport runway. In the latter case, people working at an airport might be willing to tolerate the extra noise for having a short commute to work, while someone living next to a wind farm gets no special benefit from the wind farm.

BrianB
Reply to  Steve Z
September 17, 2021 10:55 am

The abbreviation for an appraiser who is a member of the American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers is MAI – Member, Appraisal Institute.
No offense to any appraisers reading this but the joke among real estate professionals is it actually stands for Made As Indicated.

Streetcred
September 16, 2021 10:15 pm

 Justice Melinda Richards ruled this evidence was inadmissible because he relied on the sale of nearby land rather than the written evidence of an expert.

Which is exactly what a valuer would do, rely on the record of recent sales.

PCman999
Reply to  Streetcred
September 16, 2021 11:27 pm

Not only that, but the expert appraiser would compare property values farther afield as well, and see if there were any other reasons for the drop in value. Value to buyers is a subjective thing and can be affected by a lot of things.

Paul Johnson
Reply to  Streetcred
September 16, 2021 11:31 pm

That’s right, but the court seems to have ruled that translating those sales records into an assessment of lost value is not something the court has the expertise to do, thus a specialist in land valuation is needed. Uren and Zaluka need a Go Fund Me page.

niceguy
Reply to  Paul Johnson
September 17, 2021 2:43 am

What exactly is her expertise? Parroting experts?

niceguy
Reply to  Streetcred
September 17, 2021 2:40 am

Yes but she doesn’t feel she is paid enough to do the valuer job and use the evidence. She needs to have the valuer do her job and speak through her, as a ventriloquist.

niceguy
September 16, 2021 10:16 pm

Why is that clown “court opinion writer” even PAID?
Just pay the experts!

steve
September 16, 2021 10:41 pm

Seems reasonable to me to require an independent assessment on why values were lowered.

Otherwise we just have a guy with a hatred of wind farms having a go… I hate wind farms as well, but I also understand how the courts work. There are endless possibilities as to why a value has declined and they need to be addressed by an independent.

Richard Page
Reply to  steve
September 17, 2021 6:12 am

True; but it has always been the job of the court (ideally) to sift the evidence, work out a certain degree of weighted bias and make a fair decision based on what the court believes the evidence says. This judge may not be doing her job.

Rory Forbes
September 16, 2021 10:43 pm

Just my opinion based of arguing several cases in court … and with all due respect for the learned jurist, but I’m pretty sure actual evidence takes precedence over opinion … even the expert variety. Opinion is only slightly better than argument in probative value. The only issue is the question of interpreting the evidence. The bench made an appealable boo-boo because expert valuations are calculated from local sale prices.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rory Forbes
Paul Johnson
Reply to  Rory Forbes
September 16, 2021 11:40 pm

The article doesn’t say the case was dismissed. Plaintiffs should request a continuance while they engage an expert appraiser, then present those findings.

Rory Forbes
Reply to  Paul Johnson
September 17, 2021 9:26 am

You’re right. Perhaps the case wasn’t dismissed, but without those appraisals it has little merit. Let’s see if the judge will grant a continuance.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Paul Johnson
September 17, 2021 11:08 am

That would be my advice.

The judge wants an expert opinion just so she can say she has an expert opinion guiding her. She is covering her bases. She might rule in their favor if she is comfortable in doing so.

Last edited 1 month ago by Tom Abbott
fretslider
September 17, 2021 12:54 am

So, opinion trumps evidence

The Oz judiciary sounds as loony as the English ermine vermin

Richard Page
Reply to  fretslider
September 17, 2021 6:15 am

Every judicial system the world over has some wacky ideas baked in, generally something they thought might be a good idea at the time but got twisted and manipulated beyond silliness. The history of animal trials should illustrate that point (even PETA in the USA bringing a case on behalf of a monkey).

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard Page
fretslider
Reply to  Richard Page
September 17, 2021 7:09 am

You’re not wrong. Try to wrap your head around this

A judge who let Extinction Rebellion eco warriors walk free from court reportedly told them: “You have to succeed.”

Six activists who joined in last year’s mass protests in central London were accused of public order offences in Oxford Circus. Three were acquitted at City of London Magistrates’ Court and three were found guilty but freed on conditional discharges.

No media were present but according to notes taken by an academic in court, District Judge David Noble publicly thanked them for their “courage” and “integrity”.
The notes quote him as saying: “When I started, I was fully expecting to see the usual crowd of anarchists and communists.

“I have to say I have been totally overwhelmed by all the defendants. It is such a pleasure to deal with people so different from those I deal with in my regular life.
“Thank you for your courtesy, thank you for your integrity, thank you for your honesty. You have to succeed.”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/judge-praises-extinction-rebellion-activists-21458539

What the judge actually meant “It is such a pleasure to deal with people so different from the working class riff raff I deal with in my regular life”

Last edited 1 month ago by fretslider
Dodgy Geezer
September 17, 2021 1:09 am

This goes to the heart of a critical issue in modern jurisprudence.

A court is there for deciding, based on evidence which has to comply with the rules of law to be admissible. In technical areas where a court is not deemed competent to judge, the evidence needs to be put by an expert. It is not uncommon to find two experts fielded on each side of a civil case contradicting each other….

But we must now recognise that we are in a world where experts can be bought, and rely on groupthink to a phenomenal extent. Climate Change and the COVID epidemic has shown us how the mass of experts can be very wrong and yet maintain their mistakes in the face of overwhelming evidence…

niceguy
Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
September 17, 2021 2:50 am

Next thing, different values A, B and C will be provided, and the wind turbine victim will claim one value is lower (say C) than the others (A and B), but the judge will dismiss the claim and ask for an expert opinion on which of the numbers A B and C is lower.

Then the expert will have to come back again, and explain what “lower” means and what it implies in the context of the claim. (Or another expert might have to do that.)

fretslider
Reply to  niceguy
September 17, 2021 3:26 am

Trebles all round!

AndyHce
September 17, 2021 1:33 am

I don’t have an expert opinion but a reasonable conjecture might be that while solid evidence exists that the property value is reduced over what its once market value was, many different factors might be the cause. It isn’t the court’s business to investigate that. The claimant has to substantiate his claim by some means. Otherwise it is like saying the temperature went up (or down), therefore the use of fossil fuels are to blame.

Pamela Matlack-Klein
September 17, 2021 2:54 am

In order to secure a mortgage on a property, the buyer has to pay for the lender to call in a certified appraiser to determine if the property is worth the claimed value. Part of the reason for the real estate crash in the US was because some fool decided that it would be a great idea for all Americans to buy their dream home and borrow up to 120% of its value. This resulted in shady appraisers working with mortgage brokers, banks, and estate agents to keep values unnaturally high. It also resulted in buyers having no skin in the game, negative equity, and no reason to keep making monthly payments if it became inconvenient or too expensive. Mortgage defaults resulted.

Anyway, this guy should recruit the services of some licensed appraisers to prepare valuations, which are in fact only the opinion of the appraiser, and go back to the judge armed with some evidence. If it is good enough to establish value for a lender, it should be good enough to satisfy a judge as to value or loss thereof.

ozspeaksup
Reply to  Pamela Matlack-Klein
September 17, 2021 4:09 am

huh/ you have council valuation (usually low due to based on last sold/bought price)
and then the realestate dude sets whatever price he reckons the buyers will go for for wherever/whatever
valuers? never seen or heard of that, the odd building inspector to suss for rotted stumps and termites etc

Pamela Matlack-Klein
Reply to  ozspeaksup
September 17, 2021 4:59 am

That is how it works in the States based on several experiences. In Portugal the seller had his price, I wanted the house so I did not haggle and we paid cash so I don’t know if the banks investigate actual value vs perceived value of the seller. I do know that I got a great deal because since then several estate agents have offered to sell my house for considerably more than we paid. We have no intention of selling, we got exactly what we wanted to live out our lives in.

Trying to Play Nice
Reply to  Pamela Matlack-Klein
September 17, 2021 5:05 am

I think you hit the nail but skirted it a bit. In the US appraisers are licensed but their appraisals can be unrealistic. In the years leading up to 2008, many appraisals were unrealistically high. Now, the appraisers are afraid of their shadow (and jail time) so the appraisals tend to be unrealistically low.

Pamela Matlack-Klein
Reply to  Trying to Play Nice
September 17, 2021 5:27 am

Indeed, I have had to put up with that post 2008. They also used to bring in appraisers from out of the area with zero experience with local property values. It was a joke but yet another example of government stupidity.

richard
September 17, 2021 3:51 am

No surprises there.

MarkW
September 17, 2021 4:04 am

Facts are opinions, opinions are facts, and model output is data.
Welcome to a strange new world.

Trying to Play Nice
September 17, 2021 4:52 am

At least the Australian judge admits she is stupid and cannot understand simple business information. You would never find that in the US. Appraisers are certified in the US, and I assume other countries, so they should be used.

Last edited 1 month ago by Trying to Play Nice
Tom in Florida
September 17, 2021 6:17 am

In real estate, the buyers set the price. That means that the property is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it, regardless of any other opinion. The plaintiff should have put one of the parcels up for sale by himself and then submit written offers he received as evidence. But perhaps he did and those offers were detrimental to his case.

John the Econ
September 17, 2021 6:45 am

Just like most “climate science”: Ignore the inconvenient data and go with the expert opinions.

Shanghai Dan
September 17, 2021 7:27 am

We have reached peak anti-science, when data is of less value than the opinions of the anointed class.

AndyHce
Reply to  Shanghai Dan
September 17, 2021 12:46 pm

“The data is no good” or “the data doesn’t matter” point was reached quite a long time ago relative to the AGW push. It has been mostly down hill from there.

Rob
September 17, 2021 7:28 am

What we are missing is what Mr Uren presented as the evidence of land sales. If this was public information, then the judge should be censured for ignoring factual evidence which needs no “expert” opinion to back it up. If Mr Uren simply stated what the properties were sold for based on hearsay, then this would need to be backed up.

We can argue all we like over this, but we are working on half a story here – quite common in press reports.

Dean
September 17, 2021 7:38 am

How hard is it to type it out. These guys were millionaires from the property sales for god’s sake. Even a few thousand dollars paying someone to type it up might have crossed their minds as they pondered “How can we give ourselves the best chance of winning this?”

Did they do their own conveyancing as well?

tommyboy
September 17, 2021 11:15 am

An old legal saying from back in the days before DNA testing.
The difference between fact and opinion?
Maternity is fact paternity is opinion.

Fran
September 17, 2021 11:29 am

The “expert opinion” racket is costing our community about $100,000 to certify that a lake that has never had water levels fall disasterously in summer will continue to not fall. Our water operator’s years of records are invalid, but one summer’s study by a consulting firm is all that is needed.

Fran
September 17, 2021 11:42 am

This talk by Mariana Alves-Pereira goes over the physics of infrasound, the specific pathologies produced and noninvasive tests for the effects of infrasound exposure. Wind turbines are not the only source. An interesting point she makes in the question period is that, unlike oil platforms that form artificial reefs alive with sea life, offshore wind farms are deserts – fish vote with their feet.

https://livestream.com/itmsstudio/events/8781285/videos/196181579

John Sandhofner
September 17, 2021 8:51 pm

“he relied on the sale of nearby land rather than the written evidence of an expert.” Obviously the judge didn’t want to rule on this. He’s a wuss. Comparables are very appropriate. It is the only valid way to decide the value. The judge just didn’t want to do his job and make a judgment.

Ruleo
September 18, 2021 10:41 am

Justice Melinda Richards”

Melinda

Emotional creatures rule emotionally.

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