Compensation claims handling
Flughafen Zürich AG and Canton Zurich have received around 20,000 claims for compensation owing to aircraft noise and/or direct flyovers. Compensation claims are handled as part of the official expropriation process. The relevant guidelines and procedures are described below.
According to the current legal practice of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, you are generally entitled to compensation, providing the following criteria are met:
The aircraft noise must be excessive. According to case law, this applies if the immission thresholds set out in Annex 5 of the Noise Abatement Ordinance Table of noise level thresholds are exceeded. The document "Overview of noise thresholds 2014" highlights the areas in which immission levels were exceeded in 2014.
The increase in aircraft noise was impossible to predict at the time the property was purchased. This condition is satisfied under case law if a property was purchased before 1 January 1961.
Severity of the damage
A considerable level of damage must have occurred, i.e. it must have reached a certain level.
A five-year limitation period applies. The limitation period begins when all three conditions for compensation are met.
Special case for direct flyovers
Irrespective of the criteria (speciality, unforeseeability and severity), compensation is also paid for low, direct flyovers. According to applicable case law, the air column above the property must be subject to a specific frequency of noise. According to the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, a direct flyover occurs at an altitude of 125 m. Anything over 350 m is no longer considered a flyover. There are no specific regulations for aircraft flying between these two levels.
Direct flyovers are also subject to a five-year limitation period.
As a general rule, there is no compensation entitlement for take-off flyovers.
The formal expropriation procedure is based on the Swiss Federal Law on Expropriation. The procedure begins as soon as the property owner submits his/her compensation claim to Flughafen Zürich AG.
Flughafen Zürich AG aims to award compensation payments to eligible property owners, providing the framework requirements issued by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court are met. This avoids lengthy legal proceedings.
Property owners can also request that an assessment procedure be initiated. Federal Assessment Commission District 10 is responsible for carrying out the assessment procedure.
If the compensation conditions have been met, the minimum compensation to be paid must be identified. A comparison is drawn between the value of the property with and without the aircraft noise.
Minimum value disproportionate to compensation
The criteria for establishing serious damage are set out in the above sections. If a minimum value is below this threshold, no claim to compensation may be made. Compensation payments in the context of passive sound insulation (noise insulating windows) are also offset against any minimum value as non-cash benefits.
Based on previous rulings by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, two strategies are currently being followed:
The guidelines set out by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court apply when preparing compensation offers to be paid to eligible property owners as a result of formal expropriation. Owner-occupied properties which are subject to high levels of noise and which were purchased when the aircraft noise was not foreseeable are currently entitled to receive compensation. Flughafen Zürich AG will approach the relevant homeowners once an appropriate claim has been submitted. This work will initially be carried out in the municipalities of Opfikon and Kloten.
Non-justified claims for compensation will be rejected, and homeowners will be asked in writing to withdraw their claim. Should they fail to comply with this request, the Federal Assessments Commission may initiate proceedings in order to make a decision on any entitlement to compensation. Please note that in such cases, Flughafen Zürich AG will not be liable to cover any procedural or legal costs.
Any outstanding issues will be clarified by the courts. This primarily involves pilot cases. The findings from these processes are then used to settle similar cases by means of either compensation or rejection.