The Pennsylvanian House of Representatives is once again considering a bill that would increase the amount of professional fees in eminent domain cases to $25,000. The Pennsylvania Eminent Domain Code was amended in 2006 and currently provides that a property owner “shall be reimbursed in an amount not to exceed $4,000 as a payment toward reasonable expenses actually incurred for appraisal, attorney and engineering fees.” Prior to the 2006 amendment, property owners were entitled to $500 for professional fees.
The same bill was introduced during the last session in 2009 and never made it out of the State Government Committee.
This issue continues to be controversial. In 2007, the United States Government Accountability Office issued a report regarding eminent domain. In that report, the GAO stated: “Multiple property rights groups further explained that owners often are unable to fight a condemnation action if they want to retain their homes or businesses or seek additional compensation because costs related to hiring an appraiser or attorney, as well as court costs, are too high.” Of course, increasing the reimbursable amount could also increase the cost of a project. It is unclear whether this version will fare any better than its predecessor.