The laws and procedures of eminent domain, also known as condemnation, vary from state to state. Each state has precise policies, procedures and legal precedent that complicate this area of law, making the counsel of an experienced eminent domain and condemnation attorney necessary. Miller, Miller & Canby attorney, Joe Suntum, is the Maryland Eminent Domain and Condemnation member attorney of the Owners’ Counsel of America. James Thompson of Miller, Miller & Canby is an emeritus member of the Owners’ Counsel of America.
To safeguard private property ownership against eminent domain power, the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides that private property can only be taken for a public use upon payment of “just compensation.” But what constitutes public use and how just compensation should be calculated is often a complex and disputed issue.
If you receive a written notice of property taking, or if you even hear a rumor that your property may be taken or condemned, protect your property rights and heed this advice:
- Do not discuss any issue pertaining to the value of your property with anyone without first consulting counsel, as statements made by you may constitute admissions and be used against you in the condemnation proceeding.
- Do not attempt to value your property without the advice of a competent real estate appraiser. Seek an experienced lawyer’s advice before retaining an appraiser, as the timing of the appraisal and date of value may affect your compensation.
- Do not attempt to obtain building permits, variances, zone changes, subdivision approvals, curb cuts or any other government approvals without consulting your counsel, as such actions may significantly affect the property’s value and the calculation of Just Compensation.
- Do not apply for real estate tax assessment reductions without first consulting your counsel, as your challenge of a tax assessment may be used against you as an admission of the property’s value.
- Do not permit anyone to conduct any tests such as borings, explorations for hazardous waste, or test wells for a water supply, unless counsel confirms such tests are necessary for the project and secures written agreement that copies of all test data and reports will be supplied to you and that the condemnor will be responsible for all costs and damages.
- Do not supply copies of leases, expense records, profit and loss statements or similar documents to the government or its representatives without first referring such requests to counsel.
This advice is not all-inclusive. Contact an experienced Miller, Miller & Canby attorney for a consultation.