"Landmark Status" refers to a building or plot of land that has been designated by the government as having some sort of historic, artistic, or aesthetic value. Due to its value to the public, property that has been classified as a landmark receives special treatment with regards to its preservation. The building or land will usually be preserved in or close to its original state, so that the public has a chance to enjoy the historic and aesthetic value of the property. 

How Does Landmark Status Affect a Piece of Property?

If a government entity has targeted a piece of property for landmark status, it can raise several legal issues. This is because the property will usually be “appropriated” or taken over by the government. This can have serious consequences on ownership of title, as well as the manner in which the land will be used. Some common legal issues that arise when property becomes a landmark include:

  • Condemnation or eminent domain: Principles of condemnation and eminent domain imply that the property will be subject to a legal seizure by the government. Sometimes property must be destroyed in order to make way for public use of the land. Property owners would then be entitled to just compensation for the seizure or transfer of title
  • Just compensation: If the government must seize or take land for public use because it will become a landmark, the owner of the property is entitled to just compensation. This is monetary reimbursement as calculated by the fair market values associated with such land
  • Transfer of title: Oftentimes property that becomes a landmark will result in a transfer of title from a private owner to the government. Again, the property owner must be fairly compensated.
Thus, you should be aware that if the government has targeted your property for landmark status, you may be entitled to compensation if the government must seize or destroy your property. Or, in some instances you may be able to resist condemnation proceedings.

What If I Am Constructing a Building on Property That Will Become a Landmark?

A common property dispute occurs when a property owner is engaged in construction projects on land that will soon be declared a landmark. For instance, the property owner may have begun building a home on their land. During the construction process, they receive notice that the land will be designated as a landmark. In such cases, the government will perform a balancing test to determine whether the public use will outweigh the burden on the property owner. If it is deemed that the public use is more necessary than the property owner’s projects, the buildings will usually be demolished and the owner will be compensated for the losses related to the demolished buildings.

On the other hand, if the property owner’s interests outweigh the government’s interest in public usage, the property owner may be allowed to continue their construction projects. However, this will usually only occur if the government is able to secure a different plot of land that serves the same public interests. 

In most property disputes involving landmark issues, many property owners are willing to have their property demolished and so they choose to receive compensation for the construction projects. This is especially true if the land where the buildings are situation on is unique and cannot be substituted by a different plot of land. Regardless of the final decision, the conferring of landmark status is usually done on a case-by-case basis, since every piece of property is unique, and eminent domain laws may vary from state to state.

What Are Some Factors That Go into Making Landmark Decisions?

Some factors that are considered when balancing state interest versus private ownership interests include:
  • The type of public use that the land will be used for
  • The value and history of buildings that must be destroyed
  • Whether the project is just beginning or is close to completion
  • Whether the property owner is interested in receiving monetary compensation for the buildings 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Landmark Status Disputes?

If you are concerned that your property or land may be designated as a landmark, you should speak with a property lawyer to determine your rights. You may be entitled to just compensation if your property must be destroyed or if the government will be assuming full title to your land. You should absolutely consider consulting with an attorney if you are currently in the middle of a construction project in an area marked for landmark status.