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What can California property owners do about eminent domain?

On Behalf of | Oct 1, 2023 | Eminent Domain

Does the federal government want to use your California property for public use? Taking private property for public use is known as eminent domain. Even if you don’t want to sell, it’s legal for the federal government to claim your property in exchange for payment.

Does the property owner have rights?

Eminent domain is a powerful right granted to the government. However, a property owner does have the right to try and keep their property.

Contesting eminent domain involves proving that the government wants the property for non-public use. Another option is to show that the government hasn’t offered fair compensation.

However, a property owner who refuses to sell can also get taken to court. In a 2023 Texas eminent domain case, the city of San Antonio filed a petition against the property owner. The property owner refused compensation, so the case will proceed to court.

The justification for eminent domain

The purpose of eminent domain is to provide land so that governments can create structures that are useful to the public. Projects like roads, schools, and public parks might be built on eminent domain land.

The process of eminent domain

The government must show that there is an unavoidable need to use the private property in question. After the property owner becomes aware of the situation, they receive an offer of compensation for the property. In most cases, the amount offered is the fair market value.

The property owner can contact an independent appraiser for a second opinion. This will show whether or not the government is offering a fair price. The property owner can also use the appraiser’s valuation if they decide to contest the amount offered.

The property owner and the government may fail to reach an agreement. In that case, the government can take the property owner to court. A judge or jury will decide how much compensation the property owner deserves.

After the court decides the compensation, the government receives the property, and the former owner is legally obligated to leave. An exception is if the court determines the government doesn’t need the property. In that case, the property owner wins and retains their property.