YOUR PROPERTY. YOUR RIGHTS.
Q. What is eminent domain?
A. Eminent domain, also known as “condemnation,” is the power held by the government, governmental agencies and some private corporations, such as utility and energy companies, to take possession of private property for public use. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution includes a provision known as the Takings Clause, which states that “private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Read more about the eminent domain process here.
Q. Can the government take my private property by eminent domain for any reason?
A. No. Under eminent domain law, the government only has the authority to take property for a legitimate public use. This means property can be taken to expand a highway or airport, build a school, construct a community park, create a new pipeline route, or to provide enhanced utilities, among other purposes.
Q. The government or a private corporation wants to take my property by eminent domain. What are the steps in the condemnation process?
A. The laws and procedures governing the use of eminent domain differ from state to state and can be complicated. To fully understand your rights and how to protect your property, it is necessary to consult with a qualified eminent domain attorney in your state. Krause and Kinsman lawyers welcome the opportunity to discuss with you the eminent domain process and your rights as a property owner. Contact us to learn more.
Q. Can I stop the government from taking my property?
A. In some cases, the condemnation of private property can be stopped if the landowner proves that the proposed taking does not meet the legal requirements for public necessity or that the condemning authority has not met its procedural requirements. A knowledgeable and skilled eminent domain attorney can assist you in challenging the government’s authority to acquire your property.
Q. What is an “easement,” and how does it relate to eminent domain?
A. For some public projects, a condemning authority may not need to acquire your property entirely, but only certain rights to use it or a portion of it. An easement is a limited right to use the land of another for a specific purpose, for example a transmission line easement across agricultural property or an underground utility easement through a residential neighborhood. If a landowner does not want to sell or grant the rights to use his property for this purpose, the authority can acquire the necessary easement by condemning it under the law of eminent domain.
Q. If I receive a condemnation notice, does that mean that the government has already taken my property?
A. Often the notice alerts landowners that the property will be taken through the power of eminent domain giving the landowner some time, but often not much time, to prepare for the next steps in the process. If you have received a condemnation notice, contact us to learn more about your rights and how we can help you. The sooner you have a qualified eminent domain lawyer on your side, the better.
Q. If I am asked to provide documents to the government or its representatives, what should I do?
A. It is our recommendation that you provide no private or personal information to the government or its agents regarding your property before consulting with a condemnation attorney.
Q. Should I discuss the value of my property with a government representative?
A. No, consult with your eminent domain lawyer before offering specific information about your property or its value to a government representative.
Q. What should I tell the government real estate appraisers?
A. We recommend that you say very little to the government’s appraiser. The appraisers are working for the condemning authority seeking to acquire your property. It is their job to appraise your property at the lowest price possible. With Krause and Kinsman on your team, we will guide you through every step of the process and be at your side.
Q. What if I don’t agree with the fair market value determined by the government’s appointed appraiser?
A. You have the right to have your own opinion regarding the value of your property. With Krause and Kinsman on your side, we will hire an appraiser on your behalf, who can give a complete analysis on how much your property is worth and the amount of just compensation for the proposed taking.
Q. Should I assume the government will treat me justly under eminent domain law?
A. The primary goal of the government and its agents is to complete the planned project, not to look out for your best interests. You require your own legal advocate to guide you through the process and ensure you receive just compensation.
Q. Should I accept the initial offer given to me, since the government is obligated to pay fair market value for my property?
A. Fair market value may vary dramatically depending upon the highest and best use of your property and other characteristics that may be unique to your property. Keep in mind that the condemning authority’s opinion of just compensation could be at the lower end of market rates.
Q. Can I negotiate on my own?
A. Yes, but we believe that you will be better served with an eminent domain attorney on your side. While you may be unsure of your rights and the eminent domain process, a knowledgeable attorney understands the law and procedures. Furthermore, anything you say or do may be used against you by the condemning authority at various stages of the eminent domain process. You risk damaging your rights and compensation.
Q. Should I stop maintaining my property?
A. You own your property until ownership is transferred to the government or its agency. Therefore, we recommend that you continue to use, enjoy and maintain your property as you wish. Further, to determine the amount of just compensation owed to you, the value of your property at the actual time of the taking is important. A lack of upkeeping may decrease the property’s value, which in turn can affect the amount of compensation you receive.
Q. If the government has already acquired my property, is it too late to take action?
A. If your property has been taken by the government or a private corporation, we recommend that you immediately contact an eminent domain lawyer for an in-depth case evaluation.
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