Answers to common questions about our services
Condemnation, also known as “Eminent Domain”, is the power of the Government (Federal, State, City, County, Town, District, Authority) to take property for a public purpose, need, or benefit. The government can take all or part of any parcel of land.
YES. The government must provide a property owner with advance notice of the taking. It must also conduct a public hearing where it must find and determine that the requirement of a public purpose, need, or benefit is met.
Generally, no. The courts apply an extremely broad definition or test to determine whether a public purpose, need or benefit has been demonstrated by the government. Only in the rarest of cases has a court found that the government has failed to demonstrate a public purpose, need or benefit to support the taking.
A government could acquire title to property within several months if need be. The process of properly compensating a property owner could take months or years.
The government must have an appraisal prepared and offer the property owner 100% of the appraised value of the property interest acquired or to be acquired. A property owner is also entitled to statutory interest from the date of taking to the date of payment.
Any property owner can accept the government’s offer as an “advance payment”, or down payment so to speak, and file a claim with the court seeking additional compensation.
The property owner doesn’t really know unless the property owner possesses, or retains an expert who possesses, specialized knowledge of property valuation issues, engineering, and current local market trends. This is especially true where the government is acquiring a partial or unique interest in the property.
A determination of whether a property owner can obtain additional compensation is, generally speaking, a function of whether the property interests acquired, or to be acquired, by the government were properly appraised by the government’s appraiser. In many instances an attorney especially knowledgeable in the area of condemnation acquires substantial additional compensation, even in the simplest of cases.
For example, I brought a case to trial against the Town of North Hempstead in Nassau County Supreme Court in August, 1997. The Town had condemned a 15,000 square foot vacant lot on Westbury Avenue in Carle Place for use as municipal parking lot. The Town had previously offered the property owner $237,000 for the property. The property owner refused the Town’s offer, accepted the $237,000 as an advance payment, and filed a claim for additional compensation. Working closely with an appraiser and an engineer, we determined value to be much higher at $525,000.
After wrangling with the Town over value and the Town failing to make any fair offers, the case finally went to trial. In the end, the court awarded the property owner a total award of $535,000 plus interest from the date of taking, attorney fees and expert fees.
Attorney fees in a condemnation case are generally one-third of any additional compensation the attorney obtains from the government over and above the amount originally offered by the government. Thus, if the attorney is unable to obtain any additional compensation, then no legal fee is owed.
Generally, yes. In many cases the property owner will be required to pay to have an appraiser prepare an appraisal report. The fee could run anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 for a preliminary appraisal depending upon the complexities of the taking. The property owner and attorney should decide together whether the cost of an appraisal would be justified by the potential amount of additional compensation which might be obtained. Additionally, the services of a professional engineer are sometimes required especially where there is a partial taking. Again, the cost of these services should be justified by the merits of the case and the likelihood of a worthwhile award of additional compensation.
Generally, no. However, if a case goes to trial and the court makes an additional award which is 25% or higher than the government’s original offer, the property owner can petition the court for attorney fees and other expert fees. Thus, if the government had originally offered $60,000 for the property and the court awarded $75,000 or more, an application to the court for attorney fees and other costs would likely be granted. It should be kept in mind that the award of attorney fees and other costs is within the discretion of the court and the higher the award is over and above the governments original offer, the more likely it is that the court would award these costs.
Contact an experienced Suffolk County attorney handling Eminent Domain matters on Long Island
Contact Scott DeSimone P.C. online or call 631.765.3535 for a free consultation with a condemnation lawyer.