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The words “eminent domain” can strike fear in any landowner’s heart. The concept of a forced sale seems contrary to what we all have learned about ownership and private property our whole lives. Yet this exactly what occurs every time the government exercises the power of eminent domain.
Landowners are not without rights, however, including the right to fair compensation for the property they lose. Here are three things that landowners should know about eminent domain. If you have questions about eminent domain or need advice about a specific situation, speak to one of the experienced eminent domain lawyers at Sever Storey today.
When many landowners learn that the government may subject their property to an eminent domain action, their first instinct is to fight it. This reaction is understandable, of course, as many people are emotionally and financially invested in their land and feel that they have the right to remain exactly where they are.
Unfortunately, a valid exercise of eminent domain leaves nothing landowners can do to stop the government from forcing a sale of the property—and the courts uphold most eminent domain actions.
For the government to exercise eminent domain, however, it must take the property for a public use, a requirement that the courts have broadly interpreted. In fact, in Kelo v. City of New London, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a transfer of property to a private developer as a public use because the economic development associated with the proposed project would benefit the community as a whole.
To take property through eminent domain, the government (or other condemning authority) must provide landowners with just compensation. Because of the validity of most attempted takings, the issue of just compensation lies at the heart of most eminent domain disputes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the amount initially offered to landowners is often not what they believe their land is worth. Fortunately, landowners are entitled to obtain their own appraisals and introduce evidence justifying what they believe their property is worth.
While you may represent yourself in negotiations with a buyer who may ultimately use eminent domain to seize your property or in an eminent domain lawsuit, that doesn’t make it a good idea. Eminent domain is a complicated area of law, and issues like the “highest and best use” of your property or the method used to determine its value can have a significant impact on the amount you ultimately receive. Vast differences can separate the amount offered and the amount a piece of property is worth. For example, a jury awarded an Ohio family nearly $1.1 million after an attempt to force the sale of their land for just $11,865. While this an extreme example, it illustrates the importance of protecting your rights as a landowner and fighting for the true value of your property.
If you are landowner facing eminent domain, retain a lawyer as soon as you can. To schedule a free case evaluation with an eminent domain attorney, call our office today at (888) 318-3761 or contact us online.
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