What is Eminent Domain?
The concept of private property is one that is essential to the very nature and character of our freedom. However, under certain circumstances, the government has the power to take privately owned land and convert it to public use.
Through eminent domain – also known as condemnation – local, state and federal government agencies can take your property – even if you don’t want to sell – provided they pay “just compensation.” That is the root of eminent domain law.
Protecting Your Eminent Domain Rights
Although you are not facing criminal charges, it is important to remember that everything that you say or do can be used against you if and when your eminent domain case comes to trial. If you receive a written “Notice of Taking,” or if you even hear a rumor that your property may be taken, remember the following:
- Do not set the value of property until you have received the advice of a competent real estate appraiser.
- Do not attempt to obtain building permits, variances, zone changes, subdivision approvals, curb cuts, or any other governmental approvals without consulting counsel. A failed attempt to obtain such approvals can be extraordinarily harmful to your case.
- Do not apply for real estate tax abatements.
- Do not defer maintenance of your property because of a potential taking.
- Do not have contact with government real estate appraisers. They are not interested in your receiving the highest possible value for your property. Any information given to them will be used against you in court.
- Do not permit the government to conduct any tests such as borings, exploration for hazardous waste, or test wells for water supply unless counsel secures a written agreement that copies of all test data and reports will be supplied to you.
- Do not supply copies of leases, expense records, profit and loss statements or similar documents to the government or its representatives