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Eminent Domain in Michigan Explained

Few issues evoke such strong opposition as the taking of private land through eminent domain for a public use. When it comes to eminent domain, the government is playing in their arena; they do this every day. They know what the rules are, they know how the rules affect them and they know how the rules affect property owners. If the government is taking your land, make sure that you become informed so that you know what you can and cannot do.

Your initial question might be, can I stop the process? In most cases, you won’t be able to prevent the government from acquiring your land, but you are entitled to just compensation under eminent domain law. Learn more about eminent domain generally and what you’re entitled to receive, or continue reading through to learn about the Michigan eminent domain process, your rights as a property owner and hiring a Michigan eminent domain attorney.

Did you know that most eminent domain attorneys work on a contingent fee basis? With this fee structure, the attorney assumes the risk of earning a fee. Also, the property owner’s attorney’s fees may be recoverable in Michigan if certain criteria are met.

Michigan Eminent Domain Process

In the state of Michigan, the eminent domain process can only be stopped if the proposed taking does not meet the requirements for public purpose or public necessity. If you have determined that the proposed taking does meet these requirements, then you should learn more about the Michigan eminent domain process.

Remember, even if the government has the right to condemn your property, they cannot dictate the price they are willing to pay; compensation is determined by the highest and best use laws for your property.

Michigan Property Rights

The eminent domain abuse dialogue often centers on policy issues involving the right to take property for economic development and blight. Since the landmark case of Kelo v. City of New London in 2005, many states have taken measures to help curb eminent domain abuse. Some states were very successful at passing meaningful reform, and other states failed to pass any legislation at all. Most states fall in the middle by passing legislation that looks good on paper but does little to level the playing field between property owners and the government.

Since the decision by the United States Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London many states across the country have taken measures to help protect the rights of private ownership.  The controversial Kelo decision held that a local government can take the private property of one person and give it to another private entity.  While the Court’s ruling was seen by many as a serious blow to citizen’s constitutionally protected rights of private property ownership, the decision prompted a number of states to initiate legislative reform to help curb eminent domain abuse.

The Castle Coalition has released a report, grading each of the states based on their efforts to protect private property owners and their rights based on changes in their respective state laws.  The Castle Coalition is the Institute for Justice’s nationwide grassroots property rights activism project that teaches home and small business owners how to protect themselves and stand up to abuse by governments and developers who seek to use eminent domain to take private property for their own gain. The Castle Coalition gave a letter grade of A- to the state of Michigan for property rights.

The state of Michigan rates extremely high since the Kelo v. City of New London case because of the multiple steps the legislature has taken in order to protect property owners. One amendment passed was Senate Joint Resolution E, which prohibits the taking of private property for economic development or tax revenues. In addition to prohibiting the taking of private property for economic development, this resolution changed the definition of “blighted areas”, and now requires the state to determine blighted property on a parcel by parcel basis. The same bill also required the state to provide “clear and convincing evidence” that a parcel indeed satisfies the definition of blight.

Several additional bills were passed, including House Bills 5818, 5819, 6638 and 6639, all of which address the condemnation process and procedure, moving expenses for individuals, and more. The state also saw a large change with House Bill 5060 and Senate Bill 639, which adjusted the language of a proposed constitutional amendment to exclude economic development from the state’s definition of “public use”.

Hiring an Eminent Domain Attorney in Michigan

If your instincts tell you that the offer from the government is low, then it probably is. However, determining just compensation often requires an attorney to identify damages and help guide you through the Michigan eminent domain process. Additionally, other experts are needed such as an appraiser and maybe an engineer or planner to provide evidence and expert testimony on your behalf.

Most eminent domain attorneys work on a contingent fee basis. With this fee structure, the attorney assumes the risk for earning a fee. Property owners are generally only responsible for paying costs, with the primary cost being the appraiser who values the property. Because of the contingent fee structure, most eminent domain attorneys will conduct a free case evaluation for property owners prior to recommending representation.

Are my Attorney’s Fees Recoverable in Eminent Domain in Michigan?

Fortunately for Michigan land owners, (M.C.L.A. § 213.66(3)) directs the government or condemning authority to reimburse the property owner for their attorney’s fees incurred while pursuing additional just compensation if the final award exceeds the government’s good faith offer. However, attorney’s fees are limited to 1/3 of the recovery. Also, attorney’s fees may be recoverable in Michigan if the final determination is that the condemning authority does not have the right to acquire the property through eminent domain (M.C.L.A. § 213.66(2)), or if the condemning authority discontinues with the proceeding. M.C.L.A. § 213.66(4) also allows the condemning authority to pay attorney’s fees at their discretion when a settlement is reached before the verdict is rendered. Lastly, attorney’s fees may be recoverable in an unsuccessful challenge to necessity or validity on behalf of a poor person, if there was a reasonable and good faith claim that the property was not being taken for a public use. M.C.L.A. § 213.66(7)

If you’re affected by eminent domain, you should obtain a consultation so that you know and understand your rights before taking any action. Remember, the government is like any buyer, they will want to purchase your property as cheaply as possible, and their appraisers may neglect to consider damages that can lead to a larger amount of just compensation.

Very few attorneys can claim expertise in the area of eminent domain law. Make sure you consult with an eminent domain trial attorney who can effectively identify damages and select the necessary experts. Your attorney should also be able to interface with the condemning authority and be willing to take your case to trial if negotiations can not be reached. 


Michigan has an extremely high rating because of an abundance of positive legislation reform that has passed since the landmark case of Kelo v. City of New London, which has helped the property owner in multiple ways. Not only was the definition of blighted tightened, the definition now includes evaluation on a parcel by parcel basis.  

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Questions about Michigan Eminent Domain Law or if you’re interested in a free consultation, contact us today! If you want to call us, our main number is 866-339-7242. We look forward to hearing from you.