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When the government (or a party authorized by the government) uses the power of eminent domain to seize privately owned land, it is required to provide the landowner with “just compensation” for the property. Because courts have interpreted the power of eminent domain expansively over the years, most eminent domain disputes are not about whether the party attempting to use eminent domain can, but rather the meaning of just compensation in a given case.
Not surprisingly, in many cases, landowners receive unreasonably low offers for their properties. In addition, because they know that a court will almost certainly force a sale if the party seeking the land files an eminent domain action, they feel pressured to take what they can get. For this reason, landowners involved in an eminent domain action must retain legal counsel as soon as possible
A case in Lorain County, Ohio, illustrates one low initial offer—and the importance of legal counsel to landowners. According to a story in The Chronicle–Telegram, a Lorain County jury awarded landowners $1,093,181 for land the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission took to fill in an overpass and remove a bridge. The appraiser that the Commission hired had initially valued the land at just $11,865. The land was purchased as part of a larger plan to develop a residential subdivision, and the appraiser hired by the landowners found the damages sustained by the landowners worth $1.4 million.
While this serves as an extreme example, parties who try to exercise eminent domain often try to obtain land as inexpensively as possible. When this happens, landowners need to protect their rights and obtain evidence that their property is worth more than the government’s appraiser says.
In addition, you can evaluate property in many ways, and these various appraisal methods can result in substantially different valuations for the same parcel of land. An experienced eminent domain lawyer will gather and present evidence of the true value of your land and make sure to use an appropriate appraisal method in light of the use and character of your property.
If your property is subject to eminent domain or you are currently involved in negotiations with a buyer that could exercise eminent domain, speak to a lawyer as soon as you can. With more than 50 years of combined experience in the area of eminent domain, our attorneys at Sever Storey may fight to get you the full and fair value of your property. Schedule a free case evaluation with a member of our team by calling our office at (888) 318-3761 or sending us an email through our online contact form.
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