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Eminent Domain Law: Selecting an Appraiser and Using Other Experts

Posted on October 15 2014 by Gabriela Ocampo

The typical American citizen may not know the ins and outs of eminent domain law, at least not until that takings order arrives at your doorstep. If you have recently been contact by either a state, federal or municipal entity about a possible action, it’s important to know your rights and what the process may look like.

Eminent domain is, in a nutshell, the ability of a government entity to “condemn” your property, pay you just compensation for it, and then turn around to use it for projects that contribute to the greater public good. While condemn may sound like a harsh term reserved only for dilapidated old buildings, it simply means that they have earmarked your land for improvements.

Most citizens are unfamiliar with what really goes in to an eminent domain taking, because most have never been involved in one. You can bet the government has been, though, and knows exactly how to play the game. They are legally required to make you just compensation offer, also know as fair market value. Just compensation can most easily be described as the price that a buyer and seller would agree to if your property were for sale, but it gets much more complicated than that.

Another codicil to the fair market value rate is that it needs to be based on the highest and best use of your property, not necessarily what it is currently being used for. The government may hide behind the fair market value principle, but just like any buyer, they are going to try to get your land as cheaply as they can.

With all the factors at play, it’s no surprise that the great majority of eminent domain actions end up in court. Most eminent domain hearings end up in front of a special arbitration panels, where the results are binding. If you feel that your property is being undervalued, this will be your time to argue that point.

No matter how versed you are on what your property is worth, taking on a government entity in what amounts to their home court by yourself is not worth it. You need someone on your side to help you get value for your home.

Your first step should be contacting a lawyer, one that specializes in eminent domain proceedings. Do your research before committing. You don’t want to hire someone to help represent your interests and then find out they have worked on the side of a government entity before. That’s a conflict of interest that will only result in you getting less money than you should.

Just as eminent domain law is a niche industry, so is appraising. Any appraiser could come out and tell you what your land is worth. However, when you factor in the highest and best use piece, and the effect that a partial taking may have on your remaining land values, it’s easy to see how it can become a very difficult determination.

Our team at Century Law Group can guide you through the process from start to finish. It’s all we do, and we only represent private owners. We’ll help you hire a reputable appraiser in your area, and we will be with you when you get your day in court and beyond.

If you have been notified of a possible eminent domain action against your property don’t wait,contact us today. We’ll help you fight for everything you are entitled to.