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Eminent Domain in Indiana Explained

Is the government attempting to acquire your property? The eminent domain process is an unwanted government intrusion into your life that will force you to make decisions about your property and your rights.

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 to learn about the Indiana eminent domain process, your rights as a property owner and hiring an Indiana eminent domain attorney.

We are a nationwide eminent domain law firm that only represents property owners, never the government or condemning authority. Our Indiana office is located in Carmel where we have five of-counsel eminent domain lawyers working on cases throughout the state.

Property owners in Indiana have few options when it comes to hiring an eminent domain lawyer. Why? Because eminent domain is a highly specialized area of the law and very attorneys can claim expertise. Our attorneys have worked with property owners on many of INDOT’s projects, such as I-69, US-31, Vernon Bypass, Ohio River Bridges, and redevelopment projects such as the Indy Speedway Project and University expansion projects as well. Our attorneys 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.

Did you know that most eminent domain attorneys work on a contingent fee basis? With this fee structure, the attorney assumes the risk of earning a fee.

Rural Road in IN

Indiana Eminent Domain Process

In the state of Indiana, 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 Indiana 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.

Indiana Property Rights

The eminent domain abuse dialogue 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 Indiana for their property rights, they said:

“In an effort to make sure that Indiana’s citizens would not have to fear the same kind of eminent domain abuse perpetrated in New London, Connecticut, the Indiana General Assembly acted quickly to create a state commission to study the use of eminent domain and ways of eliminating abuse. When all was said and done, the Legislature adopted House Bill 1010 (2006), which provides meaningful protection against abuse. Thanks to these concerted efforts, Indiana’s reforms now provide lawmakers nationwide an example of the kind of common sense reform that can and should happen throughout the country.”

“House Bill 1010, which sailed through both legislative houses with overwhelming support, redefines public use and provides objective criteria for the acquisition of property in most situations. These steps are vitally important, because most abuses of eminent domain are enabled by standards for public use and blight that leave local governments ample room to craft their own definitions, which many courts have been hesitant to overrule. By clearly stating when eminent domain may and may not be used, the Indiana General Assembly has given the state’s property owners a significant measure of security against the unholy alliance of tax-hungry municipalities and land-hungry developers.”

“While this bill goes a long way toward preventing eminent domain abuse, there is still some room for improvement. Importantly, the legislature allowed an exception for certified technology parks, meaning that there are still ways for the state legally to take private property for another private party’s benefit. This is a loophole that should be closed. And, as always, it is important to remember that statutory protections are not as permanent as constitutional ones. If Indiana is serious about forever guarding the fundamental rights of its citizens, the General Assembly should introduce a constitutional amendment to restrict any future legislature from changing the protections in this bill.”

Castle Coalition

Hiring an Eminent Domain Attorney in Indiana

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 Indiana 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. Also, Indiana has passed legislation that requires the condemning authority to pay some of a property owner’s attorney’s fees if certain criteria are met.

Indiana Eminent Domain Attorney Fee Recovery

Attorney’s fees may be recoverable in Indiana if the amount of damages awarded to the owner is greater than the amount specified in the last offer of settlement, which must be no later than 45 days prior to the trial. (IC 32-24-1-12) Additionally, fees may be recoverable up to $25,000, or the value of the property, whichever is less. (IC 32-24-1-14).

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. 

Summary

The state of Indiana has securities in place for property owners, along with an objective series of steps that must be taken by elected officials in the condemnation process. However, if other amendments were adopted or were in the state constitution, property owners would be ensured more security.

While the physical requirements of the property detailed inSECTION 10. IC 32-24-4.5 will limit the government’s use of eminent domain, the statute states that only one of the criteria be met in order to acquire private property thru eminent domain for private use.  The vague descriptions provided on some of the requirements could make it easy for properties to fall under one of these categories.  However, with the expectation stated in the statute that the acquisition accomplish more than just an increase in tax revenue, and that attorneys fees are paid for by the condeming authority, we feel that property owner rights are well protected in Indiana.

Contact Us

Questions about Indiana 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.