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OH Eminent Domain Law

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 Ohio eminent domain process, your rights as a property owner and hiring an Ohio eminent domain attorney.

We are a nationwide law firm that only represents property owners, never the government or condemning authority. We have several of-counsel eminent domain attorneys licensed in Ohio who assist us on cases throughout the state. Our attorneys have experience defending condemnation matters on behalf of Ohio property owners affected by road and highway expansion projects as well as utility cases. 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. Also, Ohio law directs the condemning authority or government to pay a portion of a property owner’s attorney’s fees when certain criteria are met.

Anthony Wayne Bridge in Toledo, OH

Ohio Eminent Domain Process

In the state of Ohio, 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 Ohio 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.

Ohio 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 grade of a D to the state of Ohio for property rights.

In 2006, the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Norwood v. Horney that the Ohio Constitution does not permit a condemning authority to use eminent domain just for economic development. This ruling implied that other forms of scrutiny must be used in order to uphold the state laws, and that a condemning authority cannot deem a property blighted, assuming that in the future it will become blighted.

Soon after, the Ohio General Assembly temporarily formed a task force committee that was essentially put in place to study the effects of eminent domain. This committee imposed a state-wide memorandum on the taking of private properties that were not blighted, when the taking was for the purpose of economic development. The committee proved significant reform and significantly helped property owners, however the existence of the committee expired at the end of 2006.

Soon after in 2007 Senate Bill 7 was passed, which tightened the condemning authorities’ power, but also left room for un-substantial claims regarding blighted property. For instance, in a neighborhood, only 70 percent of the property needed to be considered blighted for the designation to be upheld.

Hiring an Eminent Domain Attorney in Ohio

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.

Are Attorney’s Fees Recoverable in Eminent Domain in Ohio?

Attorney’s fees in Ohio are recoverable if the final judgement is 125% of the offer. However, the reimbursement is capped at 25% of the amount by which the judgement exceeds the offer (Ohio – R.C. § 163.21). Attorney’s fees, costs and expenses may also be awarded in the state of Ohio if the court determines that the property being acquired does not satisfy the definition of public use (R.C. § 163.09(g)), or if the condemning authority abandons the proceeding. (R.C. § 163.21(a)(2))

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. 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. 

Summary

The attempted establishment of a committee helped the state of Ohio; however the state is still highly in need of legislation reform that will fully protect property owners. The state’s definition of “blight” needs to be tightened, and economic development needs be banished from state law as a permissible purpose for eminent domain to be sued. Click below to read more about the task force committee and some of the recent eminent domain changes.

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Questions about Ohio 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.