<![CDATA[Abromowitz & Steele - Blog]]>Sun, 17 Jan 2016 13:38:58 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[What are Actual Costs and How to Contain Them]]>Fri, 15 Jan 2016 14:00:03 GMThttp://www.arizonacondemnationlawyers.com/blog/what-are-actual-costs-and-how-to-contain-themOne must also consider the actual costs that may be incurred.  These are not attorney’s fees.  An example of some of the costs that may be incurred would be for exhibits (maps, drawings, photographs, etc.), and witness fees for the landowner’s witnesses (an appraiser, real estate professional, land planner, etc.).  Obviously, common sense must be used in incurring costs.  The cost is usually the only risk the landowner has in such cases.  For example, if the government’s appraisal and offer was $50,000 then the landowner knows he or she will get at least that much money.  Assuming the landowner and the landowner’s lawyer think they have a very reasonable chance of getting an additional $30,000 (with $18,000 going to the landowner), then it may be very reasonable for the landowner to invest $2,000 to $3,000 in incurred costs to take the chance on gaining the $18,000.  Some cases require more costs than others and should be discussed with the landowner’s lawyer.
One way that cost can be reduced is by sharing them with neighboring property owners who are being affected by the same project.  If a number of landowners in the same area are all having their property taken, then it may be very cost effective and cost saving for all of them to be represented by the same attorney.  When the attorney needs to spend money for aerial photographs, drawings, expert witnesses, or other exhibits, they can usually include all of the affected properties in one visit. This will result in cost saving for all of the landowners who have chosen to join together.  It is something to consider when several property owners in one area are being affected.  In the cases we have been involved in, where the landowners have joined together, we have seen savings for all of the landowners involved.

<![CDATA[BROADWAY IMPROVEMENT PROJECT UPDATE]]>Mon, 04 Jan 2016 21:11:19 GMThttp://www.arizonacondemnationlawyers.com/blog/broadway-improvement-project-updateFor those of you who would like to comment on the Broadway Improvement Project, the comment section for The DRAFT Design Concept Report period has been extended to Sunday, January 24, 2016.  

<![CDATA[Attorney Fees and Costs]]>Fri, 01 Jan 2016 14:00:01 GMThttp://www.arizonacondemnationlawyers.com/blog/attorney-fees-and-costsGenerally attorneys who represent landowners in condemnation/eminent domain cases get paid on a “contingent” or “percentage” fee.  A contingent or percentage fee refers to a fee arrangement for an attorney based on the amount of money that the attorney can get for the client.  It is perfectly legal and ethical for lawyers to gamble their own time and fees.  However, legal ethics also state clearly that clients must always be responsible for actual costs and must either pay for them as they come due or agree to reimburse the attorney.
In a typical condemnation or eminent domain case the attorney will usually agree to take a percentage or fraction only of the extra amount that the attorney can get for the landowner beyond what has already been offered.  For example, if a landowner has been offered $50,000 for the property and the attorney feels that he or she can get the landowner more money, the attorney may agree to a contingent fee.  If the attorney could ultimately get the landowner $80,000 then that will be $30,000 more coming to the landowner than had been offered.  The attorney would then take a percentage of the additional $30,000 coming to the landowner.  For example, if the contingent fee agreed to between the landowner and the attorney was 40% of the additional monies, then the landowner would receive $68,000 out of the $80,000 (the original $50,000 plus 60% of the additional money, $18,000).  The attorney would receive 40% of the additional $30,000 or $12,000 for his fees. 
If the attorney could not negotiate a settlement and after going to court was still unable to get more for the landowner than the original offer of $50,000 the attorney would get nothing.  The landowner would owe the attorney nothing for attorney’s fees.  Therefore, as far as the attorney’s fees are concerned, there is usually no risk to the landowner.  In my blog post, I will discuss what the actual costs are that may be incurred and how they may be able to be contained.

<![CDATA[Selecting an Attorney]]>Wed, 16 Dec 2015 20:24:50 GMThttp://www.arizonacondemnationlawyers.com/blog/selecting-an-attorney If the government or an entity with the power of condemnation wants all or part of your property, how do you know what attorney to go to?
There are only a handful of really qualified condemnation attorneys in this state to take on such a case.  It would be best for you to pick one of them. You wouldn’t go to your primary care physician if you needed brain surgery.
One approach to finding an attorney who is competent to handle a condemnation/eminent domain case is to check with other professionals in the field such as real estate salespeople, real estate brokers and realtors.  Some attorneys advertise that they practice this area of law.  Both Pima County and Maricopa County have County Bar Associations lawyer referral services.  For a modest fee, one of the lawyer referral services will provide you with the name of an attorney and set up an appointment for you.  It is never too early to be prepared and properly advised on these cases.
Only after you have had a chance to sit down and discuss your case with the lawyer you have tentatively selected to represent you, will you be in a position to make a decision to entrust your claim for full and “just compensation” to that professional.  That lawyer should tell you what he or she thinks in a straight and forthright manner. And if a higher valuation cannot be reasonably justified, you need to know that early on too, so you don’t waste time and can have some piece of mind about it.  If the first attorney you speak to doesn’t believe there is a realistic potential upside in valuation, then if you still have doubts you can always seek a second opinion. Click here for a link to the AZ Bar Association article on How to Talk to Your Lawyer.
We do not charge a landowner for a consultation. Typically, a landowner will contact an attorney and meet with him or her to discuss the property and what the government wants to do with it.  Some of the things that will be discussed during the initial consultation are what appraisals have taken place and what the appraised amount is, what the property is currently used for, and what is the property’s potential and the landowner’s future plans for it.  If the attorney thinks that the client might be entitled to more compensation than the government is offering, some additional investigation will probably be done.
The interesting thing about a condemnation or eminent domain case is that a landowner basically can’t lose.  The very rare exception, following statements are generally true: 
(1) In almost every case that goes to court the landowner will usually not get less than the amount the government appraisers have decided the property is worth. 
(2) Assuming the landowner’s attorney feels there is justification for a greater amount of money, experts and evidence will be gathered to justify the greater amount of money and the jury will then decide what the property is worth.  The only real risk to the landowner will be paying for these experts to do their work.  But that expense is worth it considering the potential upside. 
(3) The reason the landowner is usually at no risk of getting any less than the lowest amount testified to by the government’s witnesses, is that they generally are the appraisers who performed the appraisal for the government, with that lowest amount already contained in their appraisal.  Its hard for the government to say “we mistakenly overestimated the value”.  It is much more likely for us to prove that they underestimated the value.
(4) Since most cases settle, then the odds are very small of even facing this unlikely risk.
So, while technically the landowner must be aware of the risk of a lower jury verdict, the risk is actually very small.  Therefore, when a condemnation attorney believes there is significant potential, that is a very good sign.
<![CDATA[Outline of a Typical Case:]]>Tue, 01 Dec 2015 20:02:01 GMThttp://www.arizonacondemnationlawyers.com/blog/outline-of-a-typical-caseThe first thing that usually happens is that some one in the government makes the decision that a project needs to take place.  For example, the City Engineer may decide a road needs to be widened, or the utility company may need to put in another high voltage transmission line.  The project then goes from a general concept to a preliminary planning stage.  After the preliminary planning stage is completed, a presentation is made to the persons who will choose whether or not to approve the project.
The Mayor, City Council, Board of Supervisors, Governor or other administrator(s) will look at the project and decide if it is something that is needed in the community.  Notices are sent out to the public, information sessions, and public hearings are held.  Once the plan is approved in general, then engineers will look at the project in greater detail, and decide exactly how much land they need and who they will take it from.  For example, if a street is being widened, the engineers may plan for widening to take place upon privately owned land that abuts the existing street.
After these plans are drawn, the next phase involves contacting the affected landowners in person or by a letter to explain the project.  At this time government representatives will to visit the property to review it for more detailed planning, and for the government’s appraiser to calculate an estimate of the compensation due to the property owner.  Then, based on the appraised value, an offer will be presented to the landowner.  ** IT IS AT THIS POINT, OR BEFORE, THAT WE STRONGLY SUGGEST YOU CONTACT AN ATTORNEY CONCENTRATING IN THIS AREA OF LAW TO HELP YOU REVIEW THE SITUATION UP TO AND INCLUDING THE INITIAL OFFER**.  On average, probably 90% of the affected landowners will accept what they have been offered or try to negotiate on their own. Landowners who are represented by an attorney will usually end up with more than the original offer.
<![CDATA[What is condemnation/eminent domain in US and AZ law?]]>Mon, 09 Nov 2015 19:12:58 GMThttp://www.arizonacondemnationlawyers.com/blog/what-is-condemnationeminent-domain-in-us-and-az-lawThe right of the government to take private property in the United States is found in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and in the Constitution of the State of Arizona.  The theory is that for government to work properly it needs the ability to acquire property. If property cannot be acquired through a normal real estate transaction, then the government has the power to condemn the land in order to acquire it.  This is how eminent domain works.
Examples of typical condemnation cases are putting in a new street, expanding the interstate highways, constructing drainage improvements, extending airport facilities, revitalizing blighted areas by tearing down existing older structures and recycling them to developers, and similar projects.  Public utilities may also make use of condemnation for substation sites, high voltage power line easements, pipeline easements, and similar facilities related to the specific utility.
So long as there is a legitimate government interest, you cannot stop the government from taking your land.  If a government agency decides that your land is needed for a project that is usually good enough for the courts. If the governing body decides that the project is needed there is not much that can be done to stop it.   Usually the only remedy is for the landowners is to consult with an attorney who specializes in condemnation/eminent domain to assure that they get the highest amount of money that can be justified for the loss of part or all their land.

<![CDATA[Eminent Domain/Condemnation in US and Arizona Law]]>Tue, 01 Sep 2015 14:12:01 GMThttp://www.arizonacondemnationlawyers.com/blog/eminent-domaincondemnation-in-us-and-arizona-lawThe right to take private property in the United States is found in both the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and also in the Constitution of the State of Arizona.  The theory is  that for government to work properly it needs the ability to acquire property.  If property cannot be acquired through negotiation in the same way any private purchaser would buy land, then the government can condemn it. This is an exercise of the power of eminent domain through legal proceedings.]]>