real estate valuation lawyer

TX State Senator Lois W. Kolkhorst joined several statewide advocates for property rights to announce the filing of Senate Bill 421 which seeks to strengthen Texas property rights. If passed, Kolkhorst said the legislation would create a substantially more fair, equitable and transparent eminent domain process.

“Since the days of Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin, Texans have valued on our freedom to own private property,” said Kolkhorst. “To continue that proud tradition, I have filed SB 421 to see that the eminent domain process used by private entities is fair, transparent and that those entities are held accountable when they take private land.”

According to Kolkhorst, Senate Bill 421 features several statutory changes, including: mandating a public meeting to ensure property owners understand the process and can have their question answered, stipulating minimum protections that must be present in the contract, as well as holding condemners accountable if they offer property owners less compensation than they are owed.

 

The US Supreme Court reheard oral arguments on whether a property owner can have a federal court decide an inverse condemnation case without first exhausting state remedies. In Knick v. Twp. of Scott, the property owner alleged that the enactment of a law constituted an inverse condemnation. SCOTUS first heard argument on the case on October 3, 2018 before Justice Kavanaugh’ confirmation. After his confirmation, the Court ordered a second round of oral argument. The property owner, represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, seeks to overturn the Supreme Court Case Williamson County v. Hamilton Bank which held that federal courts may only hear inverse condemnation cases after a state court has decided the issue.

I recently had a trial regarding a partial taking of a trucks stop located outside of Harrisburg, PA. The Condemnor/Township claimed the damages were $0. We argued that the damages were $1.75M. After a four day trial, a Dauphin County jury awarded the full $1.75M. As a result, our client will also receive another $750,000 in other damages.  We are thrilled for our client.

I tried a case in Bucks County, PA involving a condemnation by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.  PennDOT claim the property was worth $850,000. We presented evidence that the property was worth $2,300,000.  The Jury returned a verdict of $2,300,000 – the full amount we alleged.

Unfortunately, the Turnpike chose to appeal the verdict to the Commonwealth Court. The Court affirmed that verdict. The RDA filed a petition asking the PA Supreme Court to hear it’s appealed. The Court denied that petition.

So, the matter is now formally over and our judgment is final.

Rep. Chris Quinn (R-Delaware) recently introduced a bill in the PA House that would require the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General to create a brief document to clearly outline the rights and responsibilities property owners have during any land acquisition negotiations where eminent domain is being used.  House Bill 2609, titled Landowner Bill of Rights, is aimed at allowing property owners to better understand their rights during eminent domain negotiations.  Some condemning agencies, such as state departments of transportation (including PennDOT), already have such documents.

I tried a case in York County, PA involving a condemnation of the former York County Prison by the City of York RDA. The RDA claimed it was worth about $65,000. We presented evidence that the property was worth $1,250,000.

After less than ½ hour, the Jury returned a verdict of $1,250,000 – the full amount we alleged.

Unfortunately, the RDA chose to appeal the verdict to the Commonwealth Court. The Court affirmed that verdict. The RDA filed a petition asking the PA Supreme Court to hear it’s appealed. The Court denied that petition.

So, the matter is now formally over and our judgment is final.

A group of Cook County property owners have filed suit in Illinois federal court alleging that they are owed more than $27 million in property tax refunds due to discriminatory assessments by the County’s Treasurer and Assessor. These property owners claim they paid taxes at significantly higher levels than other taxpayers in the same class. The complaint alleges from 2000 through 2008, assessed valuations of single-family residential, commercial and industrial properties were not made by the assessor at percentages of market value required under the state Property Tax Code and the Illinois Constitution. As a result, the complaint says, the group collectively overpaid property taxes by more than $27.8 million on six properties.

The property owners also accuse the county assessor of destroying approximately 90 percent of electronic records of his assessments of single-family residential properties and records of his internal appeals process for all classes of property for tax years 2000 to 2006 and part of 2007. The owners allege the destruction of those records violated the law on preservation of public records.

The case is A.F. Moore & Associates Inc. et al. v. Pappas et al., case number 1:18-cv-04888, in the United States District Court for the Northern District Of Illinois.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed HB 863, which allows the PA’s real estate brokers, associate brokers and salespeople to provide broker price opinions. The law defines a BPO as “an estimate … that details the probable selling price of a particular parcel of real property and provides a varying level of detail about the property’s condition, market and neighborhood, and information on comparable sales.”

Brokers, associate brokers and salespeople must complete at least three hours of continuing education on BPO topics during the current or preceding two-year license period. Additionally, salespeople must have been licensed for at least three years prior to preparing BPOs and each BPO must be co-signed by their broker or associate broker. The law also outlines the minimum contents of a BPO and specifies that compensation due salespeople for a BPO be paid only to their affiliated broker.

The United States House of Representatives passed the Private Property Rights Protection Act by voice vote. It seeks to prohibit condemnations for economic development or over property that is used for economic development within seven years after that taking. It applies to state and local takings if that governmental entity receives federal economic development funds. It would also prohibit the federal government from exercising its power of eminent domain for economic development.

Many states have similar statutes. They were enacted in reaction to the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision.

The bill has been referred to the Senate for potential action.

The Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois (Chancery Division) ruled that attorneys who referenced comparable property valuations and market values based on an income approach as part of tax appeal proceedings were simply engaged in the traditional practice of law and not in appraisal practice. In Illinois State Bar Association vs. Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, two attorneys were accused by the IDFPR of engaging in unlicensed appraisal practice after they submitted comparable property valuations, income approach information and market value opinions as part of two tax assessment appeals.

 

The main question before the court was whether an attorney representing a client in a tax proceeding violated the state’s Appraisal Act and functioned as an unlicensed appraiser when providing an analysis of comparable property valuations or developing an opinion of market value utilizing the income approach in a legal brief supporting a tax appeal. In its order granting summary judgement to the ISBA, the court stated, “There is nothing in the text and structure of the Appraisal Act that suggests that the General Assembly intended its prohibition on unlicensed appraisers to extend to what is the traditional practice of law in the property tax context.” The court further noted, “An attorney’s reference to comparable valuations in a property tax proceeding constitutes the practice of law, which is regulated exclusively by the Illinois Supreme Court.”