Fighting A Case of Eminent Domain

First what is eminent domain?  Eminent domain is the power of the government, granted by federal and state constitutions, to take private property for public use. The reasons vary. It can be taking land for schools, highways and roads or redeveloping a community and selling the land to a private developer. if the government can prove it is for the public good and an area is blighted. Residents are generally compensated at market value and move out. However, before an eminent domain can occur, a "resolution of necessity" must be adopted before the condemning agency can commence an eminent domain action in court. 

Steps to Take to Fight Eminent Domain

Fighting eminent domain is complicated.  It is wise to hire an attorney that specializes in eminent domain and condemnation law. 

As an individual you can gather as much information as you can.  For instance, if a reporter did a story on the issue, contact them to get names and numbers of people involved.  Speak to your city planning commission and redevelopment agency. Save copies of important documents, collect reports, studies, transcripts of meetings, whatever you can find that may help your case. Get the support of your neighbors and other businesses in the area. Establish a citizen’s group.

Legal Remedies 

Litigate the case and try and get a higher amount of compensation than what is being offered by the eminent domain agency. Most condemnation and eminent domain lawyers will take the case on a contingency basis. This means that the attorney will be paid a percentage of the amount the attorney obtains over and above the amount the agency is offering. 

If you may be facing a case of Eminent Domain, consult with a specialized Real Estate Lawyer in your area for a free case review in exploring your legal options.

Eminent Domain Proceedings

Expect some or all the following actions by the government:

1. Initial contact by government agency that expresses interest in the property and/or scheduling date for appraisal or environmental assessment of the property.

2. Appraisal of the property, including improvements, by agency retained appraiser.

3. Offer to purchase the property is made to the property owner, together with summary of the appraisal.

4. Notice of public hearing to adopt "resolution of necessity" to acquire property by eminent domain.

5. Public hearing is held to adopt "resolution of necessity" to acquire the property by eminent domain.

6. Eminent domain case is filed in court by the agency and served on the property owner.

7. Deposit by agency of the estimated amount of just compensation which is paid into the court and motion by the agency for early possession of the property.

8. Discovery such a depositions and document productions by both the owner and the agency.  Property owner will hire their own appraiser.

9. The property owner and government review and exchange their respective appraisers' reports.

10. Final settlement offers and demands are discussed.

11. If settlement cannot be reached, trial of the eminent domain action takes place before a jury who must determine the “fair market” value of the property or dismiss the action if there is just cause.

12. Jury returns verdict, if the government wins, then the judgment is entered.

13. Government pays judgment within 30 days following entry of judgment and title to subject property is transferred to the government by the court.

Typically the owner/occupants are contacted by a government relocation agent who will try and help assist the residents and business owners to relocate their home or business.

If you may be facing a case of Eminent Domain, consult with a specialized Real Estate Lawyer in your area for a free case review in exploring your legal options.