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Home / Practice Areas / Eminent Domain

Experienced Chicago Attorneys Protect Your Property Rights in Eminent Domain Proceedings

Established firm challenges condemnation and fights for fair compensation in Illinois

Eminent domain gives government the power to take private property for public use in exchange for fair compensation. However, if the government has decided to seize your property, you should know that you have rights in the matter. Rieff Schramm Kanter & Guttman LLC often represents landlords in eminent domain disputes that arise when the government uses its condemnation power improperly or fails to offer sufficient compensation. The U.S. Constitution requires government entities to pay “just compensation,” which is generally considered to be fair market value. However, there are various ways to calculate market value, and since each piece of property is unique, that calculation is an inexact science. Moreover, the seizure of land can inflict foreseeable harm on an owner’s business assets, and that harm must also be compensated. Our attorneys have more than 140 years of combined experience representing Illinois property owners in eminent domain proceedings and will work to protect our clients’ rights.

Knowledgeable advisers challenge public use under new legal standards

Public use has traditionally referred to the development of condemned property for streets, airports, dams, reservoirs, schools, hospitals, parks and other projects designed to benefit the community directly. Private companies might also gain easements through eminent domain to perform necessary functions, such as laying and maintaining gas, water, telephone or power lines, which serve the public good.

However, in Kelo v New London, a landmark 2005 case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a government taking is permissible if it serves a public purpose, such as increasing potential tax revenues by revitalizing an economically depressed area. This highly controversial decision resulted in the transfer of property from private citizens to a for-profit corporation.

In the years since Kelo, many states passed legislation to rein in government overreach and protect property owners in condemnation proceedings. In 2006, the Illinois General Assembly passed Senate Bill 3086, which technically limits the taking of private property for private development, but in language too vague to act as a broad prohibition. Under the 2006 law, eminent domain can be used to acquire property in an area found to be “blighted” due to:

  • Obsolescence
  • Excessive vacancies
  • Excessive land coverage
  • Deleterious layout
  • Lack of community planning

The law allows condemnations for private development as long as economic development is a “secondary purpose” to the main objective of urban renewal “to eliminate an existing affirmative harm on society from slums to protect public health and safety.” Moreover, the state’s laws still allow wide areas to be designated as blighted on account of a few properties.

However, while a less-restrictive eminent domain standard may hurt property owners seeking to defend against eminent domain proceedings, it favors developers who might want to capitalize on the existence of blight in and around the Windy City. Our attorneys have the experience necessary to manage either side of an eminent domain dispute.

Determined advocates fight for fair market value in eminent domain proceedings

If the government has a valid public use for land it condemns, the landowner must make the best bargain possible. The government will appraise your tract’s value and present its offer, but the government appraisers do not have the final say about the value of your property.

As your legal advocates, we are committed to defending your constitutional right to full, fair compensation. We seek alternative appraisals based on detailed market research to dispute the government’s assessment. We introduce evidence of factors the appraiser may not have considered, such as business goodwill, severance damages, pre-condemnation damages, and relocation expenses, which must be considered if you are to be fully compensated.

Finally, if government action has diminished the value of your property, you can condemn the tract yourself, in a proceeding known as inverse condemnation, and demand fair compensation.

Contact a reputable Chicago law firm for eminent domain defense

Rieff Schramm Kanter & Guttman LLC provides tenacious representation for property owners threatened with eminent domain takings. To schedule an appointment, call 331-310-0855 or contact our Chicago office online for a free consultation.