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Eminent Domain

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Civil Litigation

What is Eminent Domain?

Simply put, eminent domain is the power of the state to take private property for the use in a public project in return for reasonable compensation. Reasonable compensation is defined in terms of fair market value of the property.

Example 1: Private property is in the way of a road that must be expanded to accommodate public use. The condemning agency in the case partially or entirely overtakes the property through eminent domain action, if no agreement is reached first.

Example 2: Utility company needs to run power poles through your property; it can claim "easement" rights to use your property without actually possessing it.

Can't Eminent Domain Power be Abused?

It certainly can. Eminent domain abuse has become a growing concern in many communities where a property developer convinces the city take private property for the purpose of redevelopment for profit. The law has gone as far as defining "public use" as "for the public good", which are entirely different things. Under the "public good" definition, cities can claim private property and allow private developers to raise new buildings for the sole purpose of profit growth. There is an excellent 60 minutes article that shines light on the growing concern surrounding eminent domain abuse.

How Does Eminent Domain Process Work?

If you searched for "what is eminent domain", chances are you are facing eminent domain action and are seeking for answers about how eminent domain works. Before taking any action on your own, you should consult eminent domain attorneys. Simply knowing what is eminent domain and educating yourself on the subject is not a substitute for complex legal knowledge possessed by eminent domain attorneys. Here is a quick summary of how eminent domain action works:

  1. Condemning agency with interest in your property hires an appraiser to inspect and appraise your property.
  2. Agency makes an offer, usually a low one.
  3. If you don't work out a deal through negotiation with the condemning agency, a public hearing is scheduled where agency has to prove necessity for greatest public good.
  4. Condemning agency will next file a complaint against you in Superior Court. Agency will serve a summons and complaint on you and interested parties, requiring a response. You may challenge the complaint although it's likely to be overruled.
  5. Agency must deposit "probable compensation" and file a motion for prejudgment possession. You may object once again. If motion is approved, agency may take possession of your property within 30 days.
  6. Your attorney will obtain appraisal reports from appraisers and expert witnesses to establish property's fair market value. Reports are exchanged with condemning agency.
  7. Parties come to an agreement through mediation in most cases.
  8. If no settlement is agreed upon, condemning agency will provide a final offer.
  9. Trial is held to determine fair market value of your property and hear any other issues.

For a more detailed step by step explanation of how eminent domain action works please inquire about our free handbook. The handbook provides detailed answers to any questions you may have such as: What is eminent domain? What am I entitled to? How does eminent domain action work? and other important questions.

Is your personal or business property being affected by eminent domain? We can help. Call us today for a free consultation at (213) 891-0777.

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