I’m joined this week by Dan Tobin, a condemnation attorney currently working as a partner at McFarland PLLC. Based in Dallas, Dan currently works in eminent domain, fighting for the rights of landowners throughout the state of Texas. I talked with Dan today about growing up in Rochester and Buffalo, New York, working in litigation with SettlePou, and how he helps private landowners in Texas get the best offer for their property in eminent domain cases.
- [01:02] Starting out in Buffalo with influence from his lawyer father
- [07:12] Explaining the basics of eminent domain
- [12:46] Getting a lawyer and appraiser involved
- [16:20] Understanding fair market price with each offer received
- [23:48] Fighting against the frustrating aspects of eminent domain situations
Don’t just accept the offer
Eminent domain, for listeners who may not know, relates to the right that the government has to acquire your property for public use. Condemnation is the process of the government enacting that right and compensation is provided for landowners in the form of offers. Normally, Dan advises clients against taking the first offer, especially before they’ve been in contact with a lawyer and an appraiser regarding the true value of their property.
“There’s always going to be some way to increase the offer. The question really is: How much?”
Get a lawyer involved as soon as possible
Although many of Dan’s clients come to him with an offer already on the table, he encourages private landowners to pay attention to the smaller ways that a government reaches out to them first, including project announcements and public meetings. Being prepared can save a lot of time, money, and stress for both clients and lawyers, and Dan encourages people to contact him with questions and potential concerns before the first offer arrives.
“If you’re a landowner and you know a project is coming…you can call whenever you’d like. The sooner you can get us involved, the better.”
Be realistic about your expectations
There’s a huge benefit to getting in contact with a lawyer if your property becomes subject to eminent domain. However, Dan encourages landowners to understand the concept of fair market price and accept that there will always be limit to the offer they will end up receiving. Know your property beyond a narrative and understand the data of what your property is really worth.
“You are highly unlikely to be successful [in fighting against eminent domain] and you’re going to spend a lot of money trying to get that done.”
Understand the difficult timeline
As a resource in eminent domain, when I asked Dan about improving this related situation and making a greater Texas, he expressed the time it takes being a major frustration for landowners, lawyers, and anyone else involved in an eminent domain situation. Even before an initial offer is made, landowners can be stuck waiting to be contacted about certain projects happening in their area with very little ability to change their circumstances.
“[The timeline] is really not in the landowner’s control and that can be very difficult.”