Eminent Domain Law in Georgia
When it comes to eminent domain in Georgia, the government is playing in their arena; they do this every day. They know what the rules are, they know how the rules affect them and they know how the rules affect property owners. If the government is taking your land, make sure that you become informed so that you know what you can and cannot do.
Your initial question might be, can I stop the process? In most cases, you won’t be able to prevent the government from acquiring your land, but you are entitled to just compensation under eminent domain law. Learn more about eminent domain generally and what you’re entitled to receive, or continue reading through to learn about the Georgia eminent domain process, your rights as a property owner and hiring a Georgia eminent domain attorney.
Eminent domain is a specialized area of real estate law and very few attorneys can claim expertise. Our lawyers have the experience necessary to identify damages that lead to a higher amount of compensation, and they can effectively interface with the condemning authority and work the legal system to help you obtain just compensation. Also, we’re trial lawyers, so we won’t hesitate to take your case to trial if negotiations cannot be reached.
Georgia Eminent Domain Process
In the state of Georgia, the eminent domain process can only be stopped if the proposed taking does not meet the requirements for public purpose or public necessity. If you have determined that the proposed taking does meet these requirements, then you should learn more about the Georgia eminent domain process.
Remember, even if the government has the right to condemn your property, they cannot dictate the price they are willing to pay; compensation is determined by the highest and best use laws for your property.
Georgia Property Rights
The eminent domain abuse dialog often centers on policy issues involving the right to take property for economic development and blight. Since the landmark case of Kelo v. City of New London in 2005, many states have taken measures to help curb eminent domain abuse. Some states were very successful at passing meaningful reform, and other states failed to pass any legislation at all. Most states fall in the middle by passing legislation that looks good on paper but does little to level the playing field between property owners and the government.
Since the decision by the United States Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London many states across the country have taken measures to help protect the rights of private ownership. The controversial Kelo decision held that a local government can take the private property of one person and give it to another private entity. While the Court’s ruling was seen by many as a serious blow to citizen’s constitutionally protected rights of private property ownership, the decision prompted a number of states to initiate legislative reform to help curb eminent domain abuse.
The Castle Coalition has released a report, grading each of the states based on their efforts to protect private property owners and their rights based on changes in their respective state laws. The Castle Coalition is the Institute for Justice’s nationwide grassroots property rights activism project that teaches home and small business owners how to protect themselves and stand up to abuse by governments and developers who seek to use eminent domain to take private property for their own gain. The Castle Coalition gave a letter grade of a B+ to the state of Georgia for property rights, here is what they said:
“Georgia is another state in which 2006 will be remembered as a banner year for the protection of private property rights. The Georgia General Assembly not only heeded citizens’ calls for reform by passing important statutory reforms about the way that eminent domain may be used, but it also gave voters the opportunity to adopt a constitutional amendment requiring a vote by elected officials to precede the use of eminent domain for redevelopment.”
“House Bill 1313 (2006) counters the Kelo decision by providing that economic development is not a public use that justifies the use of eminent domain. Just as importantly, the bill significantly tightens the definition of blight in Georgia’s eminent domain laws. Now property can only be designated blighted if it meets two of six objective factors and “is conducive to ill health, transmission of disease, infant mortality, or crime in the immediate proximity of the property.” The bill also requires government officials to evaluate blight on a parcel-by-parcel basis in order for the properties to be subject to condemnation for private development. No longer can entire areas be threatened with the wrecking ball based on the dilapidation of a few properties; now home and business owners can protect themselves by keeping their buildings well-maintained. The new law emphasizes, “Property shall not be deemed blighted because of esthetic conditions,” and the government is given the burden of showing that a piece of property meets the criteria for blight. These changes go a tremendous way to protecting the freedoms of Georgia’s citizens.”
“House Resolution 1306 (2006) became a constitutional amendment that was approved by nearly 85 percent of the voters. Unfortunately, the constitutional amendment was only a minor procedural requirement that before eminent domain can be used for redevelopment, it must be voted on by elected officials. (In most cases of eminent domain abuse, elected officials vote; the point of constitutional protections is to prevent citizens’ rights from being voted away.) While any constitutional amendments strengthening property rights are good, Georgians would be better off if some of the strong reforms of HB 1313 made it into the state constitution.”Castle Coalition
Hiring an Eminent Domain Attorney in Georgia
If your instincts tell you that the offer from the government is low, then it probably is. However, determining just compensation often requires an attorney to identify damages and help guide you through the Georgia eminent domain process. Additionally, other experts are needed such as an appraiser and maybe an engineer or planner to provide evidence and expert testimony on your behalf.
Most eminent domain attorneys work on a contingent fee basis. With this fee structure, the attorney assumes the risk for earning a fee. Property owners are generally only responsible for paying costs, with the primary cost being the appraiser who values the property. Because of the contingent fee structure, most eminent domain attorneys will conduct a free case evaluation for property owners prior to recommending representation.
Although the government is not required to pay your attorney’s fees and costs when you are successful at pursuing a just compensation eminent domain claim, state law does provide for the recovery of attorney’s fees when you are successful at pursuing an inverse condemnation claim if the project is federally funded in whole or in part. (Ga. Code Ann., § 22-4-8)
In Eminent Domain, Are my Attorney’s Fees Recoverable in Georgia?
Attorney’s fees may also be recoverable if the proceeding is abandoned by the condemning authority, or if the final judgment is that the property may not be acquired through eminent domain. (GA § 22-1-12)
If you’re affected by eminent domain, you should obtain a consultation so that you know and understand your rights before taking any action. Remember, the government is like any buyer, they will want to purchase your property as cheaply as possible, and their appraisers may neglect to consider damages that can lead to a larger amount of just compensation.
The state of Georgia has taken measures into its own hands to protect property owners’ rights. Property owners have seen significant improvement through a tightened definition of blight, as well as procedural amendments for condemning private property. Click to visit the state legislature website that has more information on House Bill 1313.
Very few attorneys can claim expertise in the area of eminent domain law. Make sure you consult with an eminent domain trial attorney who can effectively identify damages and select the necessary experts. Your attorney should also be able to interface with the condemning authority and be willing to take your case to trial if negotiations can not be reached.
Questions about Georgia Eminent Domain Law or if you’re interested in a free consultation, contact us today! If you want to call us, our main number is 866-339-7242. We look forward to hearing from you.