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What Is Condemnation?

UPDATED: January 20, 2020

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Condemnation occurs when a local, state, or federal government seizes private property and compensates the owner. The power of the government to do this is called eminent domain, which essentially means the government takes private property for public use. The property owner is entitled to just compensation for the property during condemnation, but he does not have to give his approval of the sale.  

Understanding Condemnation

Most citizens are aware that the government can seize property for things like schools, roads, railroads, and other public building projects. However, many do not know that property can be seized for private use as well. One good example of this occurs when there is a severe housing shortage. In such instances, city governments may take property and use it to build condominiums or apartments. That way, more people can be housed in the area. In other situations, if an area is considered to be deteriorated, that property can be sold under the power of eminent domain without the property owner's approval.  

The Condemnation Process

The condemnation process may vary slightly depending on the situation, but in general:

  • Once the government has decided to take the property and has come up with a reasonable appraisal of how much the property is worth, or fair market value, it will offer the property owner a pro tanto award (a partial payment made by the government as compensation for the land being seized).  
  • If the owner does not wish to sell, the government files the appropriate court action to exercise the right of eminent domain.  
  • A hearing will be scheduled where the government has to show that the monetary offer is reasonable and the property is indeed being taken for public use.  
  • During the hearing, the property owner is allowed to respond to the claims made.  
  • If either side is unhappy with the decision, they have the right to appeal.

Getting Help

If you have received a notice of condemnation, it is in your best interests to consult with an attorney for assistance as soon as possible to make sure you have a legal advocate throughout the process. 

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