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How can eminent domain affect you?

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2024 | Eminent Domain

The Fifth Amendment establishes a government’s right to take private land if needed for public use. The landowner is entitled to receive fair market value plus damages for the property. In California, public utilities, redevelopment agencies and federal, state, county and city governments can claim the property.

Practical reasons for eminent domain

There are many circumstances in which a city might need private land, including widening streets, building a firehouse or creating another exit road for a Turnpike or Interstate Highway. In a recent California eminent domain situation, the Department of Transportation condemned a garlic shop situated at a busy intersection so it could widen the road and make other safety and traffic-flow improvements. The owners must forfeit the property, but they won’t leave empty-handed.

Just compensation

The law requires landowners to receive the highest and best use value for the land. The agency hires an appraiser who submits an appraisal with an estimated property value. The agency reviews this and makes an offer to the owner. The owner has the right to hire a different appraiser, and negotiations begin if that second value is higher. If they can’t agree on a just price, the agency can withdraw or file an eminent domain case heard by a judge and jury.

Disputed compensation

An eminent domain trial aims to determine a fair price and the legal right of the agency to take the land. A fair price can include the value of goodwill. This intangible asset is difficult to calculate in an appraisal but might significantly influence a jury’s monetary decision.

If you find yourself facing an eminent domain claim on your property, don’t despair. You might obtain a favorable offer, or the agency may withdraw and look elsewhere.