The Pennsylvanian House of Representatives is considering a bill that would increase the amount of professional fees in eminent domain cases to $25,000. The Pennsylvania Eminent Domain Code was amended in 2006 and currently provides that a property owner “shall be reimbursed in an amount not to exceed $4,000 as a payment toward reasonable expenses actually incurred for appraisal, attorney and engineering fees.” Prior to the 2006 amendment, property owners were entitled to $500 for professional fees.
This issue continues to be controversial. In 2007, the United States Government Accountability Office issued a report regarding eminent domain. In that report, the GAO stated: “Multiple property rights groups further explained that owners often are unable to fight a condemnation action if they want to retain their homes or businesses or seek additional compensation because costs related to hiring an appraiser or attorney, as well as court costs, are too high.” Of course, increasing the reimbursable amount could also increase the cost of a project.
The likelihood that this bill – House Bill 796 – will ultimately become law is unclear at this time. It was introduced by State Representative RoseMarie Swanger and was referred to the House State Government Committee on March 9, 2009.