Eminent Domain Lawyers
Eminent domain refers to the power possessed by the state over all property within the state, specifically its power to appropriate property for a public use. In some jurisdictions, the state delegates eminent domain power to certain public and private companies, typically utilities, such that they can bring eminent domain actions to run telephone, power, water, or gas lines. In most countries, including the United States under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, the owner of any appropriated land is entitled to reasonable compensation, usually defined as the fair market value of the property. Proceedings to take land under eminent domain are typically referred to as “condemnation” proceedings.
The Process of Eminent Domain
Eminent domain law and legal procedures vary, sometimes significantly, between jurisdictions. Usually, when a unit of government wishes to acquire privately held land, the following steps (or a similar procedure) are followed:
- The government attempts to negotiate the purchase of the property for fair value.
- If the owner does not wish to sell, the government files a court action to exercise eminent domain, and serves or publishes notice of the hearing as required by law.
- A hearing is scheduled, at which the government must demonstrate that it engaged in good faith negotiations to purchase the property, but that no agreement was reached. The government must also demonstrate that the taking of the property is for a public use, as defined by law. The property owner is given the opportunity to respond to the government’s claims.
If the government is successful in its petition, proceedings are held to establish the fair market value of the property. Any payment to the owner is first used to satisfy any mortgages, liens and encumbrances on the property, with any remaining balance paid to the owner. The government obtains title. If the government is not successful, or if the property owner is not satisfied with the outcome, either side may appeal the decision.
Dye Harrison – Generations of Vigorous Legal Representation