Few government powers evoke the kind of reaction from homeowners, businesses and farmers as the authority of the government to simply take property when it determines “public need” requires such a taking, often called condemnation. This power lies not just with the state, counties, cities and other local governments, but also with private utilities. If a power company or a natural gas company needs land for their purposes, they have the same power as the state to condemn the land. Both the United States Constitution and all state constitutions, however, mandate that the property owner has certain rights in this process, including the right to appropriate compensation for the damages caused by the taking. What constitutes “damages” can very somewhat from state to state. Likewise, the procedural rights given property owners will also vary depending on the state law in which the property is located.
For example, in Minnesota a property owner is typically entitled to receive the condemning authority’s appraisal of the property taken, and that authority usually must negotiate with the owner before proceeding with the condemnation action. The owners can obtain an appraisal of their own and the authority must pay from $1,500 to $5,000 toward the cost. In some cases, damages include the loss of going concern of a business and relocation benefits. If the final award is more than 40% greater than the authority’s offer, the landowner is usually entitled to reimbursement of its attorney’s fees. The rights and duties set forth in condemnation law are very complex and not easy to follow and understand. Property owners need excellent legal representation in order to receive all the benefits and awards the law provides.
Malkerson Gunn Martin has one of the most experienced teams of condemnation lawyers in the State of Minnesota. Our lawyers also handle condemnations in other states as well. We often take such cases on a “contingent fee” basis where the property owner incurs a fee only if we obtain a result greater than the condemning authority’s written offer to the owner. In other words, if we are confident we can obtain an award greater than that offered, we willingly share the risk of doing so with our clients. Of course, normal hourly fee arrangements are also available. We can help from the time our clients receive their first notice, through the initial court hearing when condemnation commissioners who determine damages are appointed, to the selection of the best appraiser for the property owner, into the condemnation hearing before the commissioners, and through any appeal of the award to court for trial by judge and jury. Our attorneys have handled eminent domain matters for more than forty years both for property owners and condemning authorities. We are experts and recognized as such by our peers. If a condemnation happens to you, let us help.