The fact that you're here likely means the government is contemplating the acquisition of your property. As the timetable progresses, you will be required to make decisions about your property. Your rights will be affected. Make sure that you become informed so you know what you can and cannot do.
Eminent domain, also known as condemnation, is simply the legal process that has been established to allow governments to gain ownership of private property for a public use. The eminent domain process can only be stopped if the proposed taking does not meet the requirements for public purpose or public necessity. If these tests are met, the government cannot be stopped from taking your property, but the government cannot dictate the price it's willing to pay, either.
When the government initiates the acquisition process, it will attempt to negotiate the purchase of your property just like any buyer might. If you and the government cannot agree on a price, though, the government can proceed with eminent domain. Keep in mind that the government is like any buyer, it will want to buy your property as cheaply as it can.
Eminent domain formally begins when the government starts a lawsuit to take your property. These lawsuits do not affect your credit rating or allege that you have done anything wrong. DO NOT BE INTIMIDATED BY A THREAT OF EMINENT DOMAIN.
Whether you sell your property to the government before eminent domain formally begins or let them take it by eminent domain, the law requires that the government pay you just compensation for your property. DO NOT ACCEPT LESS. You should know that just compensation often involves a wide range of issues which government appraisers may neglect to consider, such as highest and best use, or damages to your remainder parcel. When the government makes an offer to you, it will tell you that it represents fair market value. It may even show you an appraisal. But be aware, appraisals can vary, and the government’s may be a low one. If you reject the government’s offer, it still has to pay you that money, and this does not jeopardize your right to get more money in the eminent domain hearing.
Frequently an owner will only receive full compensation by allowing condemnation to occur. In condemnation an owner can show that the rules for highest and best use will produce a higher price than the amount offered by the government. In many states an owner's attorney fees can also be paid by the government. If you're instincts tell you that your offer is too low, it probably is. DO NOT BE PRESSURED TO TAKE A LESSER AMOUNT BY THE THREAT OF EMINENT DOMAIN.
Eminent Domain in Your State
You should know that your rights as a property owner vary signficantly by state. Also, the eminent domain process differs between states, and in some states attorney fee's will be reimbursed by the condeming authority. Because the law is unique in each state, we have devoted the remainder of our website to providing you with state specific information on the eminent domain process, your property rights, and attorney fee recovery.
Please select your state to learn more.
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"You treated us better than family! [You] came right to our home and went to Madison for us, you were the best! [The] DOT was so smart when they were here; you showed them that the little guy can be right and got us a nice chunk of money!....Thank you so much!"
- John & Pat Schmalz, Menasha, WI
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"You did more than anyone else ever tried to do for us and no words can truly explain what that means to us."
"I can unequivocally claim that we have been very pleased with the work that your law firm has performed on our behalf. Our only regret is that we did not contact your firm sooner..."
"...Thank You. It is a small thing compared to what you did for me, I still am amazed at your generosity."
"[Biersdorf & Associates] knowledge and experience in the condemnation process stood out."
"Dan listened to me; some of the attorney's I have spoken to around my state do all the talking, but do not hear what we are saying."
"[I was] very satisfied. [We] got more money than the DOT offered. [It was] great working with Biersdorf & Associates."