Nebraska Eminent Domain Law Explained
Few issues evoke such strong opposition as the taking of private land through eminent domain for a public use. When it comes to eminent domain, 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 to learn about the Nebraska eminent domain process, your rights as a property owner and hiring a Nebraska eminent domain attorney. 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.
Nebraska Eminent Domain Process
In the state of Nebraska, 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 Nebraska 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.
Nebraska 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 D+ to the state of Nebraska for property rights.
The state of Nebraska has seen very little reform since the landmark case of Kelo v. City of New London, however, the state has begun to take steps in the right direction. In 2006, the Nebraska Legislature passed Legislative Bill 924, which prohibits the use of eminent domain if it is primarily for an economic development purpose. Although this language restricts private developers from taking land for developments, it does not apply to public or private projects that make all or a major portion of the property available for use by the public.
The language in this bill is vague and has room for interpretation, which is problematic for property owners. It could be argued that commercial developments would fall under this category, meaning property owners are still not fully protected against private property transfers. This bill does, however, clarify that agricultural property cannot be designated blighted by local governments.
Private property that’s deemed blighted may be transferred to private developers under no time constraints, meaning that property owners have little protection with this hazy definition.
Hiring an Eminent Domain Attorney in Nebraska
The most blatant form of eminent domain abuse occurs when the government or condemning authority makes a ‘low ball’ offer. This scenario invariably requires the property owner to hire an attorney to obtain just compensation. Fortunately, the vast majority of eminent domain attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, meaning they charge a percentage of the additional money they obtain for the property owner. Also, Ohio has passed legislation requiring the condemning authority to pay a portion of the property owner’s attorneys fees and costs in eminent domain cases if certain criteria are met.
The government or condemning authority is required to pay the property owner’s attorney’s fees in eminent domain cases when the final award is at least 15% higher than the appraiser’s award. If both the property owner and the government appeal the appraiser’s award, then the government must pay the property owner’s attorney’s fees if the final award is higher than the appraisers award (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-720). These statutory protections now make it possible for small claimants to hire an attorney to help them obtain just compensation.
Attorney’s fees may also be recoverable if the condemning authority abandons condemnation proceedings (Neb.Rev.St. § 76-726); or if the condemning authority does not have right to acquire the property through eminent domain (Neb.Rev.St. § 76-726).
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.
Very few attorneys can claim expertise in the area of eminent domain law. To determine if you have a case, 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.
Nebraska as taken small steps toward protecting property owners against eminent domain abuse, and what the state really needs now is total reform concerning blighted areas and how areas are designated blighted. Once the state sees that, property owners will see significant amounts of protection. Click to read more about Legislative Bill 924.
Questions about Nebraska 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.