Eminent domain is the government's power to take private land for public use. This power stems from the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, so although it may seem like the government is overreaching when it tries to take your land, this right is almost as old as our country. Through the Fourteenth Amendment, state and local governments, as well as the federal government, can take your private land - Again, this taking must be for a public use. While the government's right to take private property is upheld in most instances, it is not always upheld.
The words "just compensation" get thrown around a lot in eminent domain cases. This means you must be paid fairly for the property that is taken from you. The critical question is: who decides what is fair? The government will have the property appraised, but you may not want to rely on their appraisal. Often, when a landowner gets an attorney and a second appraisal is performed, and it is much more favorable to the landowner.
You may also want to question the method of valuing the property. It makes a difference whether the government values your land according to the market approach, cost approach, or income approach. Most likely, the government's appraiser will value your property using the method most favorable to the government. You do not have to accept this appraisal.
If you are faced with the threat of the government taking your property, the last thing you may want to do is incur the expense of an attorney. Fortunately, there is good news on that front. Most reputable eminent domain attorneys handle cases on a contingency fee. That means: 1. there are no costs or expenses up front, and 2). the attorney is only paid a percentage of the amount the firm is able to recover for you. If that amount is not more than you were first offered, there is no attorney fee. Contact us to learn more about how we handle fees.
You will likely get more money for your property when you hire an experienced attorney. It is important to always remember that every case is unique. But the difference between the government's initial offer can be very different from the final outcome. There really is no downside to having a good lawyer represent you in your eminent domain case. In most cases, the best time to hire a lawyer is as early as possible. Therefore, if the government expresses interest in your property, call right away.
If you cannot continue to occupy your property, you may be entitled to relocation expenses. For instance, if you are a business owner, you may have to move people and equipment and get business permits to operate at your new location. Businesses and individuals may also need to pack and crate items to be moved and store that property for a period of time. Not all expenses associated with relocation are covered, so consult with an experienced eminent domain attorney to discover which expenses you can get paid for.
The government may not need all of your land, but even a narrow strip of your property has value. This is especially important if the portion of your land taken is being used for access to your property. It is also important if the taking diminishes the value of your remaining land. Even if the government's taking of your land is temporary, you are still entitled to payment. This is know as a temporary easement.
If you receive notice that the government wants to take your property, you might be wondering what, if anything, you can do about it. Depending on the situation, your options may be limited, but you do have some choices to make. In order to help you get the best possible outcome from a less-than-ideal situation, here are some important things to know.Consult an eminent domain attorney to see if you there is a way to stop the government from taking your land.
Most of the time, the government follows the eminent domain process. But occasionally, the government will take property without going through the legal channels that exist to protect your rights. If this happens, there is something you can do. You can file an inverse condemnation action. This is a lawsuit you file when a government or government agent infringes on your rights as a landowner. Inverse condemnation cases are complex, and it is best to have an experienced inverse condemnation attorney representing you.