Understanding the Process

Eminent domain is the power of a government or government agency to take privately owned lands and convert them to public use. Once this process starts, it is nearly impossible to stop, but understanding how it works will help you know how to fight for your rights.

An eminent domain usually begins with a project such as a public school, road, or government building needing a place to be built. These projects should be something that is for the public use of the community. Once the government decides where to build the project, the following things will happen:

  • The government will seek your permission, in person or via mail, to enter your land and determine how much of it they wish to condemn for the project.
  • An appraiser will come to your property to determine its current worth – often referred to as Fair Market Value. They will also calculate how much the property will be worth after the project has been completed.
  • You will receive an offer price for your property. You will most likely find this price too low, which we will discuss later.
  • The state or federal agency will then condemn your property via a civil action in court where they deposit the amount of money they say your land is worth with the clerk of court and file a paper with the Register of Deeds Office to officially take your property (or a portion of it).
  • Once you have been given your notice of civil action, you can withdraw the funds from the clerk of court and challenge the government’s value in court. Even though you withdraw the initial deposit from the court, you will still be able to fight for more compensation via litigation or settlement.

You can explore each of these topics in depth by navigating to our Articles section.

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