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 to learn about the Montana eminent domain process, your rights as a property owner and hiring a Montana 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 government or condemning authority may be required to pay a property owner’s attorney’s fees if certain criteria are met.
In the state of Montana, 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 Montana 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.
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.
The Castle Coalition, a nationwide grassroots property activism project by the Institute for Justice, released a comprehensive report in 2006 that graded each state based on eminent domain legislative changes which expand and protect property rights.
Did you know that the Castle Coalition gave Montana a D when it comes to property owners’ protection against eminent domain? Continue reading to learn more.
Learn more about Montana Property Rights
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 Montana 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.
Property owner’s attorney’s fees and costs may be paid for by the government or condemning authority in Montana if the property owners’ final award is higher than the final offer made by the condemning authority prior to condemnation (MCA 70-30-305(2). Reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses are based on customary hourly rates for an attorney’s services, and may not exceed the customary rate for the services that an expert witness in the same county may provide (MCA 70-30-306). Also, attorneys fees and costs could be recoverable when a claimant is successful in pursuing an inverse condemnation claim (Rauser v. Toston Irr. Dist., 565 P.2d 632, 640-41 (Mont. 1977)).
Very few attorneys can claim expertise in the area of eminent domain law. If you’re affected by eminent domain, you should obtain a consultation from an eminent domain lawyer 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. Contact us for a free case evaluation.