Unfortunately, it is all too easy for the government to take private property from an individual. Here’s why: The power of eminent domain makes it legal for the federal, state, and/or local governments vested with such power to seize private land and put it toward public use. No type of property is exempt from this power–from skyscrapers to farmland, if the government needs it for a public use, they can take it.

Though the government may spend years planning its project, it will move to acquire private property quickly; sometimes giving landowners as little as 30 days before initiating eminent domain.

So, can the government take private property from an individual and put it to a public use? Yes. And when can the government take private property? Anytime it wants to build a school, highway, government building, and/or any other public use. But luckily, the landowner does have certain rights that allow him or her to fight back against eminent domain.

Determining Property Value

The government is required to offer compensation to the landowner in exchange for the taking of their land. Technically, this compensation is supposed to be at or above the market value for the land. The government will make an initial offer to the landowner prior to initiating eminent domain proceedings. The landowner does not have to accept this offer. 

If the landowner refuses the offer, the case may go to court, where an attorney, with assistance from experts, will help the landowner determine the fair value of the property. An experienced and qualified attorney will instruct the appraiser to pay attention to all of the relevant aspects of the property at issue, including:

-Location (including proximity to development)

-What the property is currently used for

-What the property reasonably could be used for

-The type of buildings or structures that exist on the property


-Zoning and ordinance restrictions

-Size of land

-And more

The Process of Eminent Domain

Prior to initiating eminent domain proceedings, the government will first send notice to the landowner of its desire to acquire the property via private negotiation. Eventually, if not in the same notice, the government will issue a compensation offer to the landowner. Most of the time, but not always, this offer will have been determined by the government based on an appraisal also performed by the government and its agents. 

The landowner is under no compulsion to accept this offer. Because eminent domain is exercised by the government, the government, not you, is subject to the laws and procedures for exercising this authority. In other words, it is the government’s duty to follow the eminent domain laws.

If a deal between the government and the landowner cannot be reached once an offer has been issued, the government may choose to initiate eminent domain proceedings. Once a case has been filed at court, the landowner has the option to not only challenge the compensation offered, but the option to fight against the government’s ability to exercise eminent domain.

If a landowner does not challenge the ability of the government to take their land, or is unsuccessful in its challenge, the only remaining issue is the compensation owed to the landowner. A landowner would be well-served at this point to lean on his or her eminent domain attorney and appraiser to fight for the best possible deal for the taking.

How Long Does Valuation Take?

The timeline for property valuation depends on many factors. In some cases, it may take just a few months, while others could take much longer. In any case, your private land is worth fighting for, and the condemnation attorneys at Sever Storey landowner attorneys are ready to help. 

We have offices all over the country and have proven time and time again that we deliver impressive results that have made a difference in the lives of countless landowners. Don’t wait—contact us and find an attorney in your state today.