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Eminent Domain: 3 Things to Consider When Speaking to the Authorities

In eminent domain, all states require that before a taking can occur, the condemning authority must conduct negotiations with the property owner and their eminent domain attorney to attempt at completing the acquisition amicably and avoid the use of a formal eminent domain taking.  With the understanding that this mandate is contained within the statues, property owners should expect direct contact from the condemning authorities to discuss their willingness to sell their property outright.

Should you be concerned about what you say when speaking with the condemning authorities?  The first thing to appreciate is the condemning authorities are playing in their arena.  Eminent domain is something that they do everyday.  They know what the rules are, they know how the rules affect them, and they also know how the rules affect you. With this in mind, there are three things to consider when speaking to the authorities:

1.      Do not be intimidated

2.      Understand that you are not required to speak to the Condemning Authority

3.      Anything you say can be used against you

Do not be intimidated

Based upon reports we hear from property owners, we have repeatedly found that condemning authorities use an atmosphere or environment of intimidation by impressing upon property owners that eminent domain is objectionable and should be avoided.  Their solution of course is an amicable transaction.  I can’t emphasize enough the importance of not being intimidated.  As a property owner, you have rights that can not be taken from you if you assert them.  The eminent domain statutes are designed to give you the property owner protection and rights.  In some states, those rights can be extremely powerful to the extent that in your pursuit of seeking just compensation you have the ability to recover the attorney’s fees and all the costs that you incur.  Instead of being intimidated, empower yourself by learning and exercising your rights in eminent domain law, and always speak to an eminent domain attorney to determine how much money you are entitled to receive.  You might not need to hire an attorney, but it is always good to at least consult with one.

You are not required to speak to the condemning authorities

Although we don’t always recommend this, you should know that you are not required to speak to the condemning authorities.  If they are creating an environment of intimidation, and if they are not considering your concerns; or if you are uncertain of your rights at the time they begin discussing the acquisition with you, then you have the right to ignore them.  The condemning authority always has the right to exercise the power of eminent domain.  I would recommend that you at least consult with an expert prior to either speaking with or ignoring the condemning authorities.

Anything you say can be used against you

Thirdly, if you do choose to speak to the condemning authority or a representative, be mindful that anything you say can be used against you as an admission if you can not reach an agreement and ultimately file a claim.  I’m not saying that every statement you make will be detrimental to your position, but I do want to emphasize the severity of making statements that might be harmful to you.  Similar to hiring the wrong the appraiser to evaluate your property, making the wrong statement to the condemning authority can ultimately jeopardize your chances at receiving the full amount of compensation allowed under the rules of eminent domain.

Because property owners do not have the same degree of knowledge on eminent domain as the condemning authority or eminent domain attorneys do, it’s often difficult to know what should and should not be said.  Because of this, you should always at least speak to eminent domain attorney prior to entering into discussions with the condemning authority.  In a future blog, I will provide several real life examples of property owners we’ve talked to who have ruined a good claim by making the wrong statements to the condemning authority.


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1 Comments to “Eminent Domain: 3 Things to Consider When Speaking to the Authorities”

  1. Nolan Day says:

    A couple of hundred residents who are most affected by the plans of the city of St Charles to build a bridge which shows little need and thus lacks adequate public purpose or necessity are interested in what we can do to rebuke the construction of the bridge. Numerous safety concerns and the rush for them to push this through prior to the finishing of nearby Sterns Road Bridge just two miles north which will lessen the necessity even more brings us to I believe a point of no return. Most of us live in the township of St Charles and thus have no voice in city matters even though our property values will decrease to the noise and new limits on recreational use of the Fox River.
    A $30 million dollar price tag on a bridge that will primarily be used by less than a few hundred people during peak traffic hours does not make sense. Are there any precedents where a city like St Charles hoping for future development on the west side of the river and only owns the road feeding from the west and the land where the bridge abutments will be placed have been denied? They have secured right of way through a forest preserve via a land swap.

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