Although it doesn’t take an eminent domain and condemnation professional to notice the high
volume of vacant properties, abandoned businesses, boarded up homes and for sale signs flooding the streets of metropolitan Detroit, the exercise of power to transfer title of the property from its private owner to the government is quite complex. Many residents and business owners have fallen victim to these complexities and have lost property as a result.
As Mayor Bing’s plan to “shrink” Detroit is put into action, people will increasingly face the difficulties associated with their property being taken or condemned. The Mayor said he plans to revitalize the city by relocating residents and business owners away from downtrodden neighborhoods. He says he will focus on building up neighborhoods in which Detroit Public Schools plans to use $500.5 million in voter-approved bonds to build schools. In order to best protect one’s property and rights, there are a few important things that should be avoided if a written notice of taking is received, or if a rumor of property being condemned is heard.
- Do not discuss any issue pertaining to the value of your property with anyone without consulting a lawyer first.
- Do not attempt to value your property without the advice of a competent real estate appraiser. Seek an experienced lawyer\’s advice before retaining an appraiser.
- Do not attempt to obtain building permits, variances, zone changes, subdivision approvals, curb cuts or any other government approvals without consulting your counsel.
- Do not apply for real estate tax assessment reductions without first consulting your counsel.
- Do not permit anyone to conduct any tests such as borings, explorations for hazardous waste, or testing wells for a water supply unless counsel secures written agreement that copies of all test data and reports will be supplied to you.
- Do not supply copies of leases, expense records, profit and loss statements or similar documents to the government or its representatives without first referring such requests to counsel.
Dealing with an issue of condemnation can be both financially and emotionally taxing. In terms of economics, the chances of being hurt when you are relocated are limited. According to federal law, the government must provide safe and sanitary housing for relocated individuals. Emotionally, however, there is another powerful issue. People stay in their homes because they want to be in their homes. They may have had their grandmother live in that home and there maybe an emotional tie. While emotional considerations are not as easily solved, avoiding these commonly made mistakes can help protect someone and their assets tremendously. As the consolidation of Detroit moves forward, if a home or business is at risk of being condemned, property should be maintained in a normal manner and expert advice sought out.