People often think of real property ownership rights as immutable. Once someone takes title to a parcel, residential property or commercial space, they likely expect to continue owning that property until they die or decide to sell. However, there is a third scenario in which someone might suddenly lose their ownership interest in a property. That scenario involves legal claims made under Georgia’s eminent domain law. Eminent domain is the legal term for the government’s authority to assume ownership and control over private real estate holdings.
When there is a significant project in the works for public benefit, the state can facilitate the transfer of real estate by forcing owners to sell their property. Those facing condemnation as part of an eminent domain case are often eager to protect their interest in a property. What strategies may help those who do not want to lose their property to eminent domain?
Challenge the validity of the claim
Occasionally, there may be reason to question whether the project is really for public use or private benefit. The development of a strip mall may warrant questions about eminent domain claims, while the expansion of a highway likely would not. Those who believe that the proposed seizure of their property represents an abuse of eminent domain statutes may have grounds to fight the seizure of their property in civil court. The same can be true for those who can show that the foreclosing entity did not follow proper procedures, including publishing advance notice, when attempting to condemn a property.
Propose alternate solutions
Occasionally, a specific property does not need to be the one claimed for a project. For example, the placement of an access road or pipeline could move slightly to protect a specific property from inclusion in the project. Property Owners can sometimes even cooperate with one another to propose an alternate solution that could affect fewer residences and businesses than the current plan.
Counter the fair market value
In scenarios in which the project itself is legitimate and the plan does not have any clear alternatives, property owners can still protect the investments they’ve made in their land, businesses or homes. It may be possible to establish in court that the price offered is far lower than the actual fair market value for the property given the current market conditions and any significant improvements the current owner has made.
Those worried about protecting their real property in Georgia often require help from someone familiar with eminent domain laws and capable of calmly negotiating a matter that might make them quite emotional. As such, getting the right support can make all the difference for those worried about the loss of real property because of a proposed public project.