Eminent Domain 101: What to Do When the Government Knocks on Your Door and Asks You for Your Home or Commercial Property

When the government needs your property for a public project, the laws of eminent domain allow it to purchase your property from you. Federal, state, county, and local governments and public utilities must offer you fair market value for your property. But just because the government has made a “fair-market value offer” does not mean you are getting a fair deal. Here’s a brief overview of eminent domain law in Minnesota and what you should do when the government comes knocking.

Minnesota Eminent Domain Law

State eminent domain laws can be found in Chapter 117 of the Minnesota Statutes. These laws dictate how and under what circumstances the government or public utilities can claim your property. In Minnesota, eminent domain can only be used for public use or public purpose. This might include road construction and other transportation infrastructure projects, parks, public buildings, and public utility infrastructure.

Fair Market Value and Just Compensation

Under Minnesota eminent domain law, the government must offer you, at minimum, a payment equal to the fair market value of your property. Typically, government representatives will use a simple calculation based on comparable prices per square foot from neighboring properties. They might present this offer as a take-it-or-leave-it option, but you have the right to ask for more compensation for your property. And it’s likely you should.

If the government is buying your entire property, it must take your replacement costs into account when building their offer. This is the cost for you to buy a new home or reestablish your business once again in another location. Often, the replacement cost is more than your property’s market value price. Additionally, property owners and tenants can also claim relocation payments and recoup costs for searching for a new location and moving your equipment and reconnecting it there. Together, these costs can total into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Before You Accept The Government's Offer, Call an Attorney

Before you sign on the dotted line and accept the government’s offer, pick up the phone and call Jon W. Morphew from Morphew Law Office, PLLC.  Morphew Law Office works with a network of expert appraisers, consultants and engineers to assist you with determining the true fair market value of your property. Morphew Law Office will have its expert appraisers walk through your property and determine a fair market value based on criteria that is more comprehensive than the formula the government uses. The appraiser’s findings give you bargaining power against the government’s offer.

Then, contact an eminent domain attorney to represent you in your negotiations with the government. Most eminent domain attorneys, including myself, work on a contingency fee basis, which means we do not get paid unless you get paid. If you win your case, your attorney is paid a percentage of the money you make over the government’s initial offer. In some cases, you can even recover your attorney’s fees.

When the government claims eminent domain over your home or commercial property, don’t be “Minnesota Nice.” You can fight city hall. Before accepting the government’s offer, seek the advice of an experienced eminent domain attorney. I can help you get a better grasp of eminent domain law and how it applies to your particular case. Contact Jon Morphew and the Morphew Law Office, PLLC at 612-790-9189 today for a free consultation.

Brynne Turner