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Inverse Condemnation

Baltimore Property Rights Attorney Litigates Inverse Condemnation

Getting fair market value when the government harms your home or business

The U.S. Constitution gives government entities the right to condemn property and take it for public use, but only if the government compensates the owner by paying fair market value. But what happens if a government agency takes some action that drives down the value of your property without formally taking it? In such cases, you do have recourse, through a process known as inverse condemnation. John C. Murphy Law litigates inverse condemnation cases for aggrieved property owners and government entities. As an authority on land use and eminent domain in Maryland, I provide knowledgeable counsel and determined court representation to resolve property disputes favorably for my clients.

Understanding inverse condemnation in Maryland

A property owner in Maryland has a right to sue for inverse condemnation when a government action harms the value of that property or when the government’s failure to act — when it has an affirmative duty to act — causes a loss of property value. In either case, the loss of value to the property has to be significant enough to be considered a “taking” of the property from the owner. Here are a few examples of what an inverse condemnation case might look like:

  • Environmental damage — In a recent case, the Maryland Court of Appeals recognized that government inaction by the Maryland Department of the Environment that allowed a damaged septic system to contaminate a lake gave the owners of an adjacent campground the right to sue for inverse condemnation.
  • Diminution of access — If government action makes it difficult for customers to enter a property, causing a substantial impairment to a business, the business owner may have a right of inverse condemnation. For example, if the government condemned a parking lot and built a playground in its place, and a restaurant next door lost 80 percent of its business because it lacked sufficient parking, the owner could file a claim for inverse condemnation. However, in some cases, a business owner might have to prove that government activity completely obstructed the ingress and egress to the property.
  • Severance damages — When taking property through eminent domain, a government entity should be judicious and not take more than it reasonably needs for its public purpose. This can lead to the partitioning of tracts of land, where the government condemns only part of a property. However, the act of partitioning and subsequent government activity on the taken property can cause additional damage to the remaining parcel. For full compensation, an owner may have to file an inverse condemnation action.
  • Regulatory taking — If a change in the government’s rules and regulations, such as environmental or land use policies, makes it impossible for a business to continue its operations on a particular property, the property owner could sue to force the government to condemn the property.

Property owners might also be able to assert causes of action for the loss of a view or the loss of riparian rights along a waterfront.

Contact an established Maryland property rights attorney to discuss inverse condemnation

If government action or negligent inaction has substantially damaged your property, John C. Murphy Law is prepared to help. I represent landowners and government entities in the Baltimore area and throughout Maryland. Call 410-625-4828 or contact my office online to schedule an appointment.