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Oregon Eminent Domain Process

We’ve provided the following information regarding the Oregon eminent domain process for takings that meet the criteria for public use and necessity.  These takings usually occur for highway expansion projects such as road widening projects and intersection reconstruction projects.  In some cases, the takings occur for utility projects such as sewer expansion projects.

Extended explanations for each item in the flow chart are included below.  Please be aware that the flow chart and explanations are simply an overview of the Oregon eminent domain process and should not be used as a tool to take matters into your own hands.

OR-flowchart

EXTENDED FLOW CHART INFORMATION (CLICK TO OPEN)

1. Government Announces Project and Properties Affected
Typically during project development, the condemning authority (whether that agency is the Department of Transportation, or a City/County Planning Division, etc.) will hold public meetings to inform the public of the upcoming project and how this project will affect private property.
2. Property Owner Hires Attorney
Frequently an owner will only receive full compensation by allowing condemnation to occur. In condemnation an owner can show that the rules for highest and best use will produce a higher price than the amount offered by the government.  Property owners should hire an eminent domain attorney to assist with their additional damages claim.
3. Government Inspects and Values Property

Before the condemning authority makes an offer, they must determine the value of the property taken and  damages do the remainder parcel (severance damages). This valuation is determined by an appraiser and reviewed by the condemning authority prior to them issuing their offer.  These appraisers often have long-standing relationships with the government, and their appraisals may contain errors such as using incorrect comparables, or they may not value your property at its “highest and best use”.  Frequently, they ignore severance issues or dramatically understate their significance and impact.

The government or condemnor may enter onto the property to conduct the survey and appraisal.  The condemnor must provide actual or conspicuous written notice of an intent to enter for this purpose (O.R.S. § 35.220).  The notice must be at least 15 days, and the owner and any representative may be present during inspection (O.R.S. § 35.346(3)).

4. Government Makes Offer to Property Owner
The government or condemning authority must first try to acquire the property through negotiations (O.R.S. § 35.235(1)).  A condemnor must provide a written offer and associated appraisal at least 40 days before the commencement of a condemnation action. O.R.S. § 35.346(1).  If the condemner determines that the amount of just compensation due is less than $20,000, the condemner, in lieu of a written appraisal, may provide to the owner or other person having an interest in the property a written explanation of the bases and method by which the condemner arrived at the specific valuation of the property (O.R.S. § 35.346(2)).
5. Attorney Evaluates Offer

After the condemning authority makes an offer, the property owner’s attorney will evaluate the appraisal and offer to determine if it represents just compensation. If the attorney finds errors in the condemning authority’s valuation, then they will determine how best to proceed.

The owner has no less than 40 days from the date they receive the written offer, accompanied by the appraisal or written explanation, to accept or reject the offer. If the owner rejects the government’s offer and obtains a separate appraisal, the owner shall provide the condemner with a copy of the owner’s appraisal no less than 60 days prior to trial or arbitration (O.R.S. § 35.346(4)).

6. Determine Negotiation Strategy
The negotiation phase initiates after the offer is made and before condemnation occurs.  During this time, parties can reach a settlement agreement before the government initiates the eminent domain process.
7. Select Appraiser to Determine True Property Value

During the negotiation phase, a second appraisal must be done on the property in order to show the full complement of damages, including those not addressed by the condemning authority’s appraiser.  This appraisal is submitted as evidence supporting the property owner’s claim for additional compensation and can be used as evidence during trial.

It is highly recommended to consult with an eminent domain attorney prior to obtaining a second appraisal. Any and all appraisals done on the property to determine the owner’s opinion of value must be submitted to the condemning authority.  If you hire an appraiser on your own who is not experienced in valuing property in eminent domain cases, this appraiser could overlook damages and ultimately ruin your claim.    An eminent domain attorney will thoroughly review the initial appraisal and determine its strengths and weaknesses.  The attorney will then indicate a selection for the most qualified appraiser to value the property in question.

Visit our Resources page, under Why Act Now to read an example of why hiring the wrong appraiser can hurt your claim. Make sure you consult with an eminent domain attorney before hiring an appraiser on your own.

8. Property Owner Settles with Government
If the property owner is satisfied with the offer, they can sign the final settlement agreement, therefore waiving their right to pursue additional damages.
9. Deed is Transferred
Once the final settlement papers are executed by the property owner, the deed is transferred to the condemning authority.  It is at this time that ownership is transferred from the property owner to the condemning authority.
10. Owner’s Case is Done
The owner is paid in full, the condemning authority owns the property, and the owner’s case is completely done. The property owner can no longer file a claim to challenge the taking or to receive additional compensation.
11. Property Owner Does Not Accept Offer
If, after negotiations, the property owner is not satisfied with the amount offered by the condemning authority, they can refuse the offer and allow condemnation to occur.
12. Government Initiates Eminent Domain Proceeding
If no settlement agreement is reached, the condemnor may file an action to condemn in the circuit court of the county in which the property is located (O.R.S. § 35.245).
13. Government Makes Deposit, Takes Possession
Condemnor, whether state agency or private company, may deposit anticipated compensation and take control of the property.  This deposit is compulsory for public agencies and within the court’s discretion for private condemnors.  O.R.S. §§ 35.265, 35.275.    The court may make funds available to owner and the owner may withdraw such funds without waiving rights of appeal (O.R.S. § 35.285).
14. Owner Files Answer Seeking Additional Compensation
Owner will file an answer to seek additional compensation and include the alleged true value of the property and damages in an answer (O.R.S. § 35.295)
15. Jury Trial on Compensation

A trial is by jury is conducted to determine just compensation for the property owner.  O.R.S. § 35.305, 35.325.

If owner wishes to appeal the jury finding, the condemnor may pay a deposit and take possession.  A withdraw of this deposit voids the right to appeal.  O.R.S. §§ 35.355, 35.365.

Binding arbitration is only available if the property is estimated at less than $20,000.  O.R.S. § 35.346(6).  If the total value claimed is between $20,000 and $50,000, non-binding arbitration is available.

If you have questions regarding the eminent domain process in Oregon, contact us for more information.

The eminent domain process in the state of Oregon is complicated, and if you are undergoing eminent domain and want to make sure you are justly compensated, you should speak to an eminent domain attorney. Speaking to an eminent domain attorney regarding your case will keep you informed of your rights, the eminent domain process, and whether or not your attorney’s fees will be paid for by the state of Oregon.

Contact Us for a Free, No Obligation Consultation


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