Eminent domain is the process by which states and localities have the right to condemn and force the sale of private property usually in order to serve a public purpose. In some situations, states or localities have given this power to administrative agencies, local utilities, or local boards, e.g. library boards. Condemnation is the act of a government exercising its power of eminent domain, not to be confused with the legal process where a building is designated as no longer fit for habitation. Traditionally, private property was often taken for public uses like building freeways, schools, bridges, and more recently certified technology parks. Only a judge can decide whether or not a taking is for a public purpose should there be a dispute between the property owner and the state.

Condemnation is the process by which the taking authority will acquire your land. This process is controlled by statute. A discussion of the condemnation process can be found following this section. Think of it this way, eminent domain represents the power to take, condemnation is the process by which they take it.

Property can in certain situations be taken for private projects as well. Over the past few decades, the courts have interpreted what projects are for “public use” very broadly. The courts have deferred the decision of whether or not something is for a “public purpose” to the individual state legislatures. For example, some communities now use the power of eminent domain to seize “blighted” neighborhoods for redevelopment into more upscale condominiums and apartments. In situations such as these, the state serves as the “middleman,” taking the private property from one person to sell or give to another in order to spur economic growth. Projects such as these are often referred to as “economic development zones,” and our lawyers have a keen knowledge of these complicated situations.

While states and localities have the right of eminent domain, the U.S. Constitution entitles home and land owners to just compensation for their property by way of the 5th and 14th Amendments. After the government decides to take property, it will provide an appraiser to determine the fair market value of the land, which is the amount of money that the government is offering for the property. The appraiser will inspect the property and will review all other elements that might affect property value. Home or land owners can either accept or reject the government’s offering price. It is best to work with a lawyer in deciding whether or not to accept the government’s appraisal price and to protect your legal rights. There are often aspects of compensation that only an experienced lawyer may able to identify.

Why Should I Listen To You?
At Sever Storey, we are lawyers that find solutions and deliver results. We’ve represented hundreds of landowners and businesses that have been affected by eminent domain and condemnation, and we’ve figured out what works. Our attorneys have extensive practical experience and are familiar with the unique problems that often arise in the eminent domain and condemnation processes. This invaluable experience allows our attorneys to identify issues and solve problems you might not have even contemplated. On behalf of our clients, we’ve squared off against state and local governments, pipeline and power line operators, and developers. We have represented farmers, business owners, and residential landowners from all walks of life. Clients come to our attorneys with cases where a few hundred dollars is at stake, and we represent them just as passionately as we represent clients whose cases involve millions of dollars of compensation. We’ve even taught other attorneys how to better serve clients faced with eminent domain or condemnation. When we give recommendations and advice, you can rest assured it’s coming from experienced, knowledgeable attorneys who are looking out for you.