The Gray Area of Fair Market Value, Condemnation and Just Compensation

by Isaac Benmergui, Esq on February 21, 2014

Sometimes it just gets confusing as to what to do about market values, pricing and such; but the most alarming mystery – the gray area, as I call it – is the fact that we often don’t understand why. Houses fluctuate. That much is true. But what happens when a seller, county or state has a differing point of view with respect to value of a home over the original owner? What then? How do we discern what would be the most accurate number?gray area

This is a common challenge in real estate law, particularly for this case between respondent Soleimanzadeh and Montgomery County over the seizure of portion of properties. The question was about value – how much was Montgomery County entitled to? To make it even worse, discovery violations were assessed, keeping Soleimanzadeh from presenting any kind of evidence as to the appraisal on the respondent’s side for valuation of the property. Because of that, the circuit court ended up granting that summary judgment for the County.

This wasn’t over by a long shot, though, as Soleimanzadeh presented the issue to the court of special appeals (CSA) with a successful reversal due to unlawful removal of that constitutional right to a jury trial for deliberation of compensation under Maryland Rules. The issue with condemnation of a property, you have to understand, can be a lot different than the actual market value of the home, so that’s where the dissension lies. That being said, the respondent addressed a valid point – there was no jury trial available, so due process was violated.

Still, the County fought back, taking it to the higher Court of Appeals for their own reversal. People everywhere, I guess, are disagreeing with everything – even the courts. The tactic there was to go ahead and allow a jury trial but to reverse the decision of the CSA so as not to satisfy any conclusion to the legal battle. Sadly, though, the result fell on the lap of the County. At the very least, all those gray areas get resolved.

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