Understanding Condemnation and Eminent Domain

Eminent domain refers to the power of the government to take property for the public good. While there is a vested right to property ownership in the United States, and your rights to your land are considered important, ultimately the government has a stronger interest, and if necessary may be able to exercise its power of eminent domain if it is deemed in the public good. However, just because the government can take your land by eminent domain doesn't mean that they don't have to give you anything for it. To the contrary, whenever the government is going to take your land, they must provide you with "just compensation" and an opportunity to object to the taking (also called condemnation). To do otherwise would be a violation of your Constitutional rights.

Understanding Condemnation and Eminent Domain

When the government decides they need your property for the greater good, such as the construction of a road or a school, they may make you an offer for the property. This offer should be based on fair market value, or the value of the property if it is put to its most profitable or "best" use. The fair market value will be determined by an appraiser hired by the government entity who is trying to take the property. If you do not choose to accept the offer, the government can still proceed with the process of the taking or "condemnation." A hearing will be scheduled wherein you can object on one of two grounds: you can assert that the government does not really need to take your property for the public good, or you can assert that the offer you received was not fair. If you do resist and you are successful at either stopping the condemnation or having the price adjusted, your attorney's fees may also be reimbursed.

Getting Legal Help

It is advisable to hire a lawyer if you hope to fight condemnation of your property. A lawyer can help you plead your case, and can also help you get the best and fairest offer possible for your land.