Eminent Domain: What to Expect During Valuation Proceedings

The term “eminent domain” comes into play when the government takes control over property that you own or have rights to. Although the government can exercise this right, it can do so only under certain conditions. One of those requirements is that they pay you, as the property owner, the value of the property as if it were sold on the open market. It must value the property to make this payment, and it does so as part of a “condemnation proceeding.”

What is Fair Market Value?

Maryland law specifically defines fair market value. It is the price as of the date that the property is being valued that a seller would accept for the property and the highest price that a buyer would be willing to provide. It assumes that the seller is not forced to sell the property in doing this valuation because that would negatively affect the sale price.

It also assumes that the price is not negatively affected by any project that the government is about to begin. For example, if the city is purchasing the property because it plans to build an airfield nearby, the fact that the city has that plan could negatively affect the price. It generally is not desirable to live near a noisy airport. The valuation should not include the project for which the city is exercising its right to eminent domain.

A government-retained appraiser will determine the value of the property based on these particular considerations.

What Happens During Valuation Proceedings?

The process for eminent domain procedures includes the following general outline.

  1. The governmental entity will send you a letter that it intends to exercise its eminent domain rights. It will let you know that it plans to appraise your property and offer you “just compensation” for the taking.
  2. The entity will then get an appraisal and send you a written offer for the property. The proposal will include summary information of the specific property that it would like to purchase. In many cases, it will only want a portion of your property so it can put in water lines, widen a street, or other smaller projects. Even when the property is smaller, it still has to offer you fair market value for it.
  3. If you do not agree with valuation, you can put forth the assessed value of your property, or you can sometimes engage a professional appraiser of your own. You can counter the offer with another price point.
  4. Sometimes negotiations are not successful. You can refuse to sell the property, but the government will likely start a formal court proceeding to acquire the real estate. You can reach an agreement at any time during this process, but it can proceed to a jury trial in some cases.

Maryland also has another method that the government may use to obtain your property. It is referred to as the “quick take” method. This process involves deeding the property over to the government while you work out the details of the purchase price. This process helps prevent delays that the government’s project may experience because of negotiations.

Jack R. Sturgill is known as Maryland’s Eminent Domain Lawyer. He has 40 years of experience protecting client rights during eminent domain procedures. Call us today to discuss your options if you have received a notice letter from the government: (410) 296-6485.

Written by Law Office of Jack R. Sturgill

Jack R. Sturgill, the Owner and CEO of Jack’s Law, has practiced civil litigation for over 40 years. As an experienced litigator and real estate, estate planning, and estate administration law attorney in Maryland, he focuses his practice on legal matters pertaining to real estate, land use, eminent domain and condemnation, business and corporate law, estate planning, estate administration, personal injury, and administrative law.