Property Like Yours Deserves Experience Like Ours

What gives the government the right to take my property?

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that private property can be appropriated for “public use,” but requires that “just compensation” be paid. This right of eminent domain can be exercised by state and local transportation departments, cities, counties, school boards, sanitation districts and even utility companies. State and federal statutes and regulations outline the procedure they must follow, but they’re designed to make the process easier for the government, not for you. And, what compensation seems “just” or fair to the government may not be fair to you.

We know the law, and we know the process. We keep a watchful eye to make sure the government isn’t overstepping its authority. We recently helped our clients negotiate a very favorable sale to a town that wanted to acquire property for a mixed public and private use. Understanding the limitations of the government’s rights to use eminent domain gives you leverage.

When will my property be taken? When will I get paid? What about my mortgage? What about my moving expenses? Should I buy replacement property? Should I get my property rezoned? Should I get an appraisal? Should I appeal my tax assessment?

You need to make decisions and you need to make plans. We know how to get the most accurate and up-to-date information about project timetables and construction plans. We can help you plan for your future without jeopardizing your right to be fully compensated for the taking of your property. We help you anticipate and resolve issues involving your lender, your tenants, your business and your relocation. Anticipating the issues now is the key to avoiding mistakes later.

How will my property be valued? Who decides what is “just compensation” for my property?

The government is required to value your property at its highest and best use, not just its existing use. Your highest and best use may be for large scale commercial or residential development. We work with experts to determine and prove the use of your property that is feasible, permissible and maximally productive, to ensure that you are paid based on highest and best use. We work with the best MAI appraisers, engineers, environmental scientists and architects to prove the full potential of your property.

What if my property is unique or special—the kind that isn’t normally bought and sold?

We’ve represented many owners of “special use” properties, such as churches, schools, or specialized factories, that aren’t widely or customarily sold, so there are few, if any, comparable sales for appraisers to rely on. In these cases, the government’s appraisers often fail to consider the true value of the property to the owner and the special features that make the property uniquely valuable. We’ve handled dozens of special use properties and know how to make sure the special attributes of your property are considered.

Will I be compensated for damage to my remaining property? What if my access or parking is taken? What if I’m no longer conforming with zoning regulations?

When part of your property is taken, you’re entitled to be paid for the damage to the remaining property resulting from the project. Day after day, we see the government and its appraisers underestimate the damage to remainder. In some cases, the damage may be so severe that existing uses can’t continue. In a recent case, the Department of Transportation offered our client, a hotel owner, $291,000 when it moved an existing road closer to a hotel. We proved that proximity to the road would make the hotel unprofitable, because vacancies would increase and rates would decrease, so the hotel buildings had no more value. A jury agreed that the road’s proximity destroyed the value of the hotel buildings and awarded the owner $2,533,364, including interest.

Lauren AtkinsHow We Can Help