They say that it is pointless to fight city hall. However, property owners can fight a local, state or federal government’s claim of eminent domain as part of the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause. The owner has an opportunity to fight for their property during a hearing to determine whether the government is justified in its need for the land and has failed to offer just compensation to the landowner.
Fighting an eminent domain is a step by process that will vary slightly depending on who wants the land. However, this is the general process for protecting one’s land.
Step 1: Notice of eminent domain
Regardless of how justified the government feels, it must notify the owner of eminent domain. At this time, it should try to negotiate an acceptable price in good faith. The notice generally describes the amount of property in question – it could take a portion through an easement – as well as the proposed use and a purchase price. The citizen and the government can then negotiate in good faith before hearing.
Step 2: Hearings
If the two sides cannot strike a deal, the government will move forward with condemnation proceedings. At this point, the owner can state what they believe the property to be worth, often working with an attorney and an appraiser. The owner can also contest the proposed use of the property. For example, they may not want a pipeline going across property adjacent to their remaining land. The owner can also claim that the government is asking for too much land (known as excessive takings).
Step 3: Remedies for takings
If the government meets all legal criteria for taking the land through eminent domain, the landowner may be responsible for court costs. This will happen if the owner seems excessively motivated by financial interests. Conversely, the owner could claim that the eminent domain claim’s actions devalue the remaining property. The court would rule on the monetary difference between devalued property and fair market value.
A lot is at stake
Legal issues involving the government are rarely straightforward, so it is essential for those who receive an eminent domain notice to contact a real estate attorney who handles this complex issue. These legal professionals can help protect a landowner’s rights and negotiate a just price for the land.