18 June 2007

Private property rights!

I've spent a bunch of space on this blog addressing many Real Estate issues, mostly having to do with the buying and selling of homes. But, it occurred to me this morning that there is another part of the business that few people know about until it may be too late. You've heard me talk about my involvement in the Utah Association of Realtors regarding legislative and tax issues. What most people don't know (or give us any credit for) is that our number one priority is the protection of private property rights.

 Specifically, I want to talk a bit about eminant domain. In case you don't know what that is, it's the power of a government entity to take your private property, for a "supposed" public good. Sometimes, it's exactly that. A blighted or run down area of town that's taken over for redevelopment can be an excellent use of eminant domain. Widening highway 36 a couple of years ago was also a good use. However, many times a city or county will want to take over a perfectly good piece of property and turn it over to a private developer for commercial use. Not always a good thing. Defining the "public benefit" can get tricky.

 What I want to talk about today are some of the rights property owners have that they may not even know about regarding eminant domain.   Most people assume that the city comes in and just takes it.   Not so. They must compensate you fairly.   That's where the confusion sets in.   Your fair and their fair are probably not the same fair!   They are required to have an "independant" appraisal to show the value of the property. But, did you know that if you request it, they must have a second appraisal done (on their dime!) independant of the first one?   Did you also know that all condemnations between the government and landowners are required to go through mediation first? 

 The government is also required to tell the landowner of the existance of the office of the Property Rights Ombudsman, an office created in 1997 to properly interpret land use and condemnation law. Though the ombudsman doesn't have the power to force a city, county or state agency to change a land-use decision, a property owner can use the ombudsman's opinion to win attorneys fees if they prevail in a lawsuit.

 Utah was the first State to establish such an office, but many States are now following our lead.

 Private property rights are a fundamental part of this country, and the Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman is there to help you protect them.

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