Eminent domain is the government’s right to take private property for public use. The process for eminent domain begins with the government entity interested in acquiring the property making contact with the property owner to express interest in the property and scheduling an appraisal date for the property. The last step is for the government to make a formal offer to purchase the property from the owner. A property owner who does not want to sell their property to the government may be able to prevent the acquisition.
How Will I Know That the Government Wants My Property?
The government is required to send a formal notice to the property owner. The notice informs the property owner of the government’s intent to exercise its right of eminent domain.
Can I Challenge the Eminent Domain Right?
If the property owner does not sell their property to the government right away, an administrative hearing to discuss the matter is usually scheduled. Different government entities have different procedures for their eminent domain administrative hearings. However, regardless of which government entity is attempting to acquire the property, the administrative hearing is an opportunity for the owner to contest the taking and the compensation offered for the property.
How Can I Challenge a Government Taking?
There are two ways to challenge a government taking. A property owner can either:
- Challenge the government over whether the property is necessary for the intended purpose, or
- Challenge the government as to whether the intended use of the property actually benefits the public.
What Constitutes Public Use?
Generally, public use means that the property will be accessible to the general public, such as a sidewalk or a public school. However, under eminent domain, “public use” can also technically be private use so long as that use benefits the public, such as seizing property and turning it into a business park that will create job growth in the local economy.
Can I Lose the Administrative Hearing?
Yes. The officials overseeing the hearing may side with the government regarding the eminent domain and the compensation amount. However, a less than favorable outcome from the administrative hearing does not have to be the end of your fight against eminent domain.
Can I Continue Challenging the Eminent Domain If I Lose?
Yes. The losing party has the right to appeal the decision, either in front of an appeals board or in court. If the property owner wins the appeal, they will be able to prevent the government from taking their property. If the appeal fails, the property owner can petition the court to hear the case based on the violation of Constitutional rights.
Do I Need the Help of an Attorney for an Eminent Domain Challenge?
Going up against the government in an eminent domain situation is very difficult and complicated. If you are fighting to save your property from eminent domain, contact a real estate attorney. An attorney will explain your rights and help you challenge the government’s attempt to seize your property.