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Eminent Domain Law in California

Posted on October 20 2014 by Gabriela Ocampo

According to California law relevant to eminent domain (also referred to as condemnation) a governmental entity may only take your private property for public use. Governmental entity may include utilities, hospitals and universities that serve the public. If the legislature has enacted a statute declaring a certain use or function is one that allows for eminent domain, then the use is deemed to be for the public.

Three factors must be met in order for your property to be taken under California eminent domain law:

  1. The governmental project is designed to meet the needs of the people residing in the state.
  2. The project will provide the greatest good to the most people while causing minimum harm and injury to private property owners.
  3. The governmental entity must have the property in order to commence or complete the project.

If one of the three factors is not met, the government may not take your property. Even if all three are met, there is a specific process that must be carefully followed.

A brief overview of the eminent domain process in California

The process begins when a public agency sends you a written notice of intent to have your property appraised. After the appraisal is done, you will receive a written copy with an offer to purchase the property at the amount determined by the governmental appraisal. If you reject the offer, a public hearing is held.

At the hearing, the agency wanting the property must convince the governing board that all three required criteria are met. In addition, it must provide proof that it offered, in writing, to buy your property and you turned down the offer. In order to preserve your rights, you must attend the hearing and present your objections to the government taking of your property. Your attorney may attend with you and present your case.

If the agency is successful in proving its case, the governing board adopts a Resolution of Necessity. An Eminent Domain Complaint is then filed in court.

California Eminent Domain laws are complex. There are timelines that must be followed and certain evidence that must be presented in order for you to preserve your rights and either prevent the taking, or at a minimum, receive just compensation for your property.

Just compensation

The U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution both require the government to give you "just compensation" for your property. California has enacted statutes that govern the way compensation is determined. Litigation generally revolves around the amount of compensation that is considered just.

Forensic real estate appraisers may be called in to help determine the value of your property. If it is a business that is being taken, a separate appraisal of fixtures and business goodwill should be included. It is not an easy process. The help of an experienced eminent domain attorney is recommended.

Property owners deserve a vigorous defense against the government's taking of property

At Century Law Group we represent only property or business owners in their fight against the governmental taking of their property. We work diligently to obtain the maximum possible award for you, which may include relocation assistance in addition to attorney's fees and costs. There may also be other damages to which you are entitled.

Many cases settle before trial. If trial is required, we will vigorously present your case. Since we never represent the government, we never have any conflict of interest in fighting against them in eminent domain cases.