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Understanding Condemnation

By Don R. White
Condemnation sometimes referred to as eminent domain, is the taking of private property, for public use. When these types of actions are initiated, the issues of value/adequate compensation, and whether the land being taken is intended for public use become key.

Understanding how condemnation proceedings work is important for landowners, because you will want to make sure your rights are protected and that the offer made for your property, as well as any damages to the remainder of your property, is reasonable. A condemnation case is a civil matter but does not proceed along the same lines as most civil cases. The process can be confusing and frustrating, but with the assistance of an experienced real estate attorney you can obtain favorable results.

The law contains several requirements and some checkpoints along the way to make sure that the landowner has an opportunity to have their voice heard. The general procedure goes something like this:

  • Before a condemnation case can be filed, the company or governmental entity seeking to take possession of the property must make a bona fide offer to the landowner.
  • The requirement of making an offer includes obtaining an appraisal and sending the landowner two written offers, the second of which must be in an amount equal to or greater than the appraised value.
  • Certain timelines must be followed regarding when the first and second offers are made, and the landowner must be given time to respond.
  • The company or governmental entity seeking to purchase the property is required to provide the landowner with a copy of the appraisal, as well as any other appraisals for the property that it has in its possession covering the previous ten year span.
  • The landowner is permitted to enter into negotiations with the acquiring entity, and should do so only with the help of a qualified attorney.

If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the company or governmental entity will likely file a suit. Once the suit is filed, the Judge will appoint three commissioners who live in the county, and whose role is to arrive at a figure that represents adequate compensation for the property taken and damages to the remainder of the property. A hearing will be scheduled, and this is the landowner’s chance to present evidence of the true value of the land and the damages to the land remaining after the condemnation. After the hearing, a decision will be made, and that decision is filed unless a timely objection is made thereafter, in which case it is tried as any other case in a Court.

A successful challenge to a condemnation proceeding requires an on-site review of the property, as well as an expert’s opinion as to value. You may also want to present evidence of recent sales in the area, and question the intended use for the property after it is taken. If the intended use is not for the benefit of the public, the condemnation may not be valid. We can help you by examining the facts of your case and making sure your rights are protected. Call our office today to learn more about this unique type of civil proceeding. Our firm has two attorneys, Richard Hayes and Don White, who are Board Certified in Residential and Commercial Real Estate, and who have successfully represented numerous clients in condemnation matters.

Our approach to your case is tailored to the specific facts. By conducting an investigation of your needs and circumstances, we make sure our strategy fits the facts of your case. Call our office today to schedule an appointment so we can help you reach workable solutions.

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