An eminent domain action can be one of the most profitable real estate transactions a person makes. This is due to the government’s obligation to pay “full compensation” to a property owner in a taking action, including not only fair market value of the property taken, but also may include damages to property not taken, compensation for attorneys fees, appraiser fees, engineering and other expert fees, moving costs, business damages and other compensable items. However, a wrong turn can quickly create a nightmare scenario. Here are five of the biggest mistakes a property owner can make in an eminent domain action:

  • Mistake 1: Not utilizing professional consultants. A prudent property owner will retain a team of consultants including attorneys, appraisers, engineers, land planners, general contractors, surveyors, business damage experts, and other professionals to properly evaluate the situation and present their best case. In most eminent domain cases, the taking authority is required to pay the property owner’s consultant fees. The taking authorities will hire their own team of consultants – you should hire your own team as well.

  • Mistake 2: Hiring the wrong consultants. A good eminent domain attorney will help her client assemble the right team of professionals. A great consultant is one who has mastery over their craft, is familiar with the ins and outs of eminent domain, and makes a great witness. Hiring a consultant who cannot communicate their findings in a clear, logical and convincing manner may lead to a disaster in the courtroom or at the negotiation table.

  • Mistake 3: Failure to understand what is compensable. Eminent domain has its own set of rules regulating what is and is not compensable. If you do not understand those rules, or have someone on your side who does, you could leave significant cash on the table. With some compensable items, like business damages, if you do not know about them, and ask for them, you may waive your right to them.

  • Mistake 4: Not asking for non-monetary benefits. A well informed property owner will evaluate whether she can benefit from non-monetary benefits. Non-monetary benefits include things such as adding a curb cut to a roadway design, or granting the property owner additional time to stay in the property after the taking, or a whole host of other benefits.

  • Mistake 5: Failure to understand eminent domain procedure. Eminent domain law is full of deadlines and procedures a property owner must follow to ensure maximum recovery.

Our firm is committed to helping property owners maximize their recovery in an eminent domain action. If you are facing an eminent domain action and have questions, please call us for a no cost consultation.

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