Land consolidation court – a practical court of law
Disputes between neighbours can involve many different aspects: border disputes, shared roads, road disputes, joint ownership and rights of use – to name just a few. Often these disputes remain unresolved, like an open wound, partly because the parties want to avoid a potentially draining and expensive lawsuit. In such cases, land consolidation can offer a flexible and cost-effective solution. Since a legal amendment was passed resulting in land consolidation no longer being restricted to agricultural property, this now also applies to properties in urban areas.
In 2009, land consolidation celebrated 150 years of existence in Norway. There are three land consolidation courts in Hordaland: Sunnhordland jordskifterett (Stord), Indre Hordaland jordskifterett (Voss) and Nord- og Midthordland jordskifterett (Bergen).
Since our inception in 1924, Harris has represented parties in matters before the Norwegian Land Consolidation Court (until the Norwegian Land Consolidation Act of 1952, land consolidation was referred to as “reapportionment”). The new Norwegian Land Consolidation Act (of 21 June 2013) came into force on 1 January 2016.
The Norwegian Land Consolidation Court is a tribunal (cf. Section 2(2) of the Courts of Justice Act) and its jurisdiction covers the whole country. In certain cases, it can act as a court of assessment The Land Consolidation Court’s impartial expertise is otherwise stated in Section 1-4 of the Land Consolidation Act:
Changing the conditions of the property to create more suitable conditions, including by:
- Redefining the property and permanent right of use.
- Establishing joint ownership between properties.
- Dissolution of joint ownership and shared use between properties.
- Dividing the property according to a fixed proportion.
- Establish rules for shared use (usufruct agreement). Rulings on this typically involve defining articles of association for road maintenance groups and watercourse maintenance groups. A land consolidation case therefore represents a practical way of determining rights and obligations between properties and the usufructuaries, in cases where the parties are unable to come to an agreement on their own.
- Issue directives on joint initiatives and shared investments. This approach has been useful e.g. in cases where it is necessary to upgrade or establish a private road, and the parties need help to divide the development costs among them. These types of cases often coincide with a request to have a usufruct agreement drawn up between the parties.
- Establish groups and define articles of association. Management company.
- Restructure and replace time-limited rights of use and permanent usufruct that are not linked to immovable property.
- Replacing permanent usufruct that is linked to immovable property, and negative easement. There may be a need to change an individual’s right to a notvoll (place where in the past one could lay out fishing equipment to dry) the location of which prevents a beach zone from being exploited to erect a boathouse.
The Land Consolidation Court has jurisdiction to impose any existing boundaries between properties. Such a case can also be brought before ordinary courts. A benefit of choosing the Land Consolidation Court is that it also positions and maps out the borders. The Land Consolidation Court always ensures that the cases are recorded in the land registry.
The court can then clarify and determine the ownership rights and rights of use for shared properties and other situations where there is shared use between properties (rights clarification). Typical examples of such cases include when the Land Consolidation Court determines who is the rightful owner of a watercourse, and when the court determines who owns the land in an area where grazing and forestland are shared between different rightsholders.
The Land Consolidation Court has the jurisdiction to hand down judgments. This jurisdiction has been greatly expanded compared to what applied according to previous legislation. Various types of road judgments can be usefully decided by the Land Consolidation Court.
The Land Consolidation Court is keen to appear to the public as a “low threshold provision”.
The Land Consolidation Court judges are solution-oriented, but the complicated rules make it challenging to protect your own interest without legal assistance. In many cases, parties contact us after the land consolidation requirement has been presented. The optimal approach is to be able to give advice before the matter is brought to the Land Consolidation Court. For certain types of cases, the parties involved in a land consolidation case will be entitled to legal aid under their own agricultural or household insurance policy.
Harris Law Firm has a number of attorneys who work exclusively on land consolidation cases.