The Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman (“OPRO”) is a neutral, non-partisan state office in the Utah Department of Commerce that protects the property rights of the citizens of Utah. The Office helps citizens and government agencies understand and comply with property rights laws, resolves property rights disputes, and advocates for fairness and balance when property rights conflict with public needs.
The following video is a brief introduction to the Ombudsman Office. Additional information is found below the video. Feel free to contact the Office if you have questions.
Can the Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman Represent Me in a Dispute?
The Ombudsman Office is a neutral, non-partisan state agency, and does not represent any party in a dispute. While we cannot represent clients, the OPRO can assist with problems through advising, or by resolving disputes through education, negotiation, mediation, arbitration, or advisory opinions.
Who Works in the Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman?
The Office is a division in the Utah Department of Commerce, and is established by state statute. The OPRO is staffed with three attorneys who are knowledgeable in eminent domain, takings, and land use law, Brent N. Bateman, Elliot R. Lawrence, and James S. Wright. Oversight for the Office is provided by the Land Use and Eminent Domain Advisory Board, a seven-member body created by statute. The members of this board are nominated by the Governor and represent various governmental, business, and real estate professional interests.
What Can the Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman Do to Help Me?
The OPRO helps citizens and government officials with matters related to takings, eminent domain, and land use law in several ways, including resolving disputes through education, negotiation, mediation, arbitration and Advisory Opinions.
- Inform and Educate: The OPRO can answer questions, explain the law and legal processes, and review options available to solve and avoid problems.
- Negotiation: The Ombudsman can be a liason between property owners and local or state officials to discuss a matter or potential dispute. By doing so, the OPRO will attempt to help everyone understand the perspective of the others involved, and try to find an objective resolution. The involvement of the OPRO also helps minimize the impact of strong personal feelings.
- Mediation: The Ombudsman can convene a meeting with the parties, and facilitate settlement discussions. By doing so, the OPRO will assist all parties to evaluate facts and issues and reach a resolution to the dispute.
- Arbitration: At the request of the property owner, the Ombudsman can arrange arbitration, and require the condemning entity to participate. A neutral third party decides the matter, after considering the positions of all parties.
- Advisory Opinions: The OPRO can research specific issues of land use law, and prepare an Advisory Opinion that attempts to resolve the dispute in accordance with the prevailing law.
Do You Get Involved in Disputes Between Private Parties?
The Office’s mandate is to help resolve disputes between private citizens and state or local government entities. Threfore, the Office typically does not get involved in disputes between private property owners except in very limited circumstances. (e.g., when a private party has condemnation rights under state law). However, do not hesitate to contact the OPRO with questions. We will provide as much information as we can to assist you.