Eminent domain battle continues over Boston theater property

Although it may not happen that often, the government does have the right to take private property for public use, provided other circumstances are present.

A local story provides context. According to court filings, the former owners of Boston’s historic Modern Theater are seeking almost $1 million dollars from the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The BRA took possession of the building by eminent domain in 2002. 

An attorney that focuses on real estate law knows that both state law and the U.S. Constitution impose some parameters by which the government may exercise its eminent domain rights.

One such requirement is just compensation. The government generally cannot leave a property owner in worse financial position than he or she was before the property was condemned for eminent domain purposes. In addition, the taking must also be for a legitimate public use. When a property owner believes those guidelines were not followed, he or she might bring an eminent domain challenge.

In this case, the challenge centers on compensation. However, an attorney knows that other procedures must also be followed in an eminent domain taking. For example, a governmental entity should not be allowed to damage the value of property before exercising its right of eminent domain. Such inverse condemnation might result from preventing access to the property or passing a municipal ordinance or law that deprives the owner of the property’s value.

If you are a property owner and suspect that the government actually or constructively took your property without following proper procedures, contact a real estate attorney to learn more about your rights and available options.

Source: Boston Herald, “Family: BRA owes us for Modern Theater eminent domain deal,” Richard Weir, Oct. 3, 2014