December 20, 2009  |  Joan M. Quade

By Joan M. Quade
Our constitution provides a right to receive just compensation if a public entity is taking land and provides that a condemning authority has an obligation to pay just compensation for land taken for a public purpose. This principal is deeply rooted in our constitutional history and traditions of real estate law.   Simply put: if you are a condemning authority you must pay fair value for land being taken. If you are a landowner you must receive fair value for land taken.
The evaluation of the value of land is sometimes difficult, therefore, how does one determine what is fair value? We must rely on the right experts. Finding the right expert for valuation of property is not just a matter of finding the person who can do the comparables to suggest value. It is a matter of knowing who can find the most similar comps and who can persuasively communicate that information effectively in writing and at a commissioner’s hearing. Different cases and different types of property command different specialization.
Value is initially decided by the condemning authority’s appraiser, however, the landowner has a right to an appraisal as well. The Minnesota Statutes provide that the landowner will be awarded $1500 to obtain their own appraisal on the land. However, generally an appraisal is much more expensive unless the amount of land being taken is very small and easily appraised.
One can negotiate the reasonable value of their property with the condemning authority and the majority of condemnation actions end this way in an agreed upon settlement. However, if the parties cannot agree, three commissioners which have been selected by the Court and who have knowledge regarding land values will view the property and then hold a hearing to determine the value of the property. The commissioners’ findings of value are binding unless either party appeals to the District Court for a jury trial on the issue of value. The process can be confusing, drawn out and expensive. With the right approach, the right experts, and attention to detail early in the process, the potential for these pitfalls can be minimized.
Because we have represented both condemning authorities and individuals, we have a balanced, methodical and successful approach to properly having the property appraised, selecting expert witnesses and presenting our clients’ case to maximize our clients’ goals.
If you receive a condemnation notice or if you are a condemning authority and need assistance or just want to discuss your options and the costs and benefits of those options, please call Joan M. Quade at BGS at 763-783-5138 or e-mail at: