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Wisconsin Eminent Domain Process

The majority of eminent domain cases in Wisconsin meet the requirement for public purpose and necessity. Examples of cases that meet these criteria are: property acquisition for highway improvement projects, and acquisitions for utility projects such as installation of power lines and sewer systems. This page is dedicated to information regarding the Wisconsin eminent domain process.

If the taking of your property meets the requirements for public necessity or public purpose, then continue reading to learn more about the eminent domain process in the state of Wisconsin. Please note that there are extended explanations for all of the numbered sections in the flow chart. Additionally, links to specific state statues are also provided, where applicable. Please be aware that the flow chart and explanations are simply an overview of the process and should not be used as a tool to take matters into your own hands.

If the taking of your property does not meet the requirement for public purpose and necessity, then you should learn more about your property rights in Wisconsin.

wisconsin eminent domain process

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
Depending upon the complexity of the case and the amount of additional damages done to the property, it may be necessary to allow condemnation to occur in order for the property owner to receive just compensation.  If this is the case, an eminent domain lawyer must be hired to assist the property owner with their claim.
3. Government Inspects and Values Property
The condemning authority must have at least one appraisal performed for the condemned property in question. In conducting the appraisal, the appraiser must make reasonable efforts to confer with the property owner, meaning the appraiser must make an effort to meet and discuss the specifics of the appraisal with the property owner. (Wis. Stat. § 32.05(2)(a))
4. Government Makes Offer to Property Owner and Provides Appraisal
When the condemning authority makes an offer, they must provide the property owner with a copy of the appraisal on which the offer is based. At the same time, they must also inform the property owner of their right to a second appraisal by a qualified appraiser at the government’s expense. However, under this statue, the property owner must submit the appraisal report to the condemning authority within 60 days after the owner receives the appraisal from the condemning authority. (Wis. Stat. § 32.05(2))Important: It is highly recommended for a property owner to consult with an eminent domain attorney before hiring a second appraiser. Property valuation is the most important step in the eminent domain process and hiring the wrong appraiser can jeopardize a property owner’s right to just compensation. Visit our Resources page, under Why Act Now to read an example of how hiring the wrong appraiser can hurt your claim. Make sure you consult with an eminent domain attorney before hiring an appraiser on your own.Before the condemning authority makes its final offer, it will attempt to negotiate with the property owner or their legal counsel. At this time, they will provide the property owner or their legal counsel a list of at least 10 neighboring property owners who are also affected by the project. If less than 10 owners are affected, the condemning authority shall provide a map that displays the properties of the affected owners. The property owner may request the names of all property owners and properties that are affected, and may also obtain any maps in the possession of the condemning authority that show other properties affected. (Wis. Stat. § 32.05(2))
5. Attorney Evaluates Offer
The attorney will conduct a thorough analysis of the condemning authority’s appraisal, offer and map and compare it to the property owner’s appraisal to determine whether or not they are entitled to at least a minimum of 15% more than the government’s offer.Note: the second appraisal can be conducted at a later date, and the property owner can be reimbursed for these costs after the case as long as the final award is at least 15% more than the government’s offer.
6. Owner’s Claim Likely to Exceed Threshold
The threshold mentioned is 15 %, which refers to the property owner’s right to recover their attorney’s fees and costs from the government as long as the final award is 15% higher than the condemning authority’s final offer.
6. Owner’s Claim Unlikely to Exceed Threshold
The threshold mentioned is 15 %, which in this case means the property owner is not entitled to receive at least an additional 15% more than the governments offer. If this is the case, a property owner’s attorney’s fees and costs are not recoverable by the condemning authority.
7. Property Owner Negotiates Settlement with Government
If the property owner is not eligible to receive an additional 15% above the government’s offer, then it is in the best interest of the property owner to negotiate a settlement with the government on their own, with out hiring an attorney.
8. Deed is Transferred
If a settlement is negotiated and the property owner accepts the offer from the government, the date of settlement serves as the date of the taking and the date the deed is transferred. (Wis. Stat. § 32.05(2a))Important: If a property owner settles with the government, and an attorney determines they are entitled to additional compensation, the property owner has 6 months from when the deed was transferred to file a claim with in the circuit court. (Wis. Stat. § 32.05(2a))
11. Government Acquires Property by Deed from Owner
If negotiations are ignored or unsuccessful, the condemning authority must, before acquisition through condemnation, provide a jurisdictional offer for the property owner. This offer will contain information such as the nature of the project, the amount of compensation, the proposed date of occupancy, etc. Most importantly, it will state that the property owner has 20 days to accept or reject this offer. (Wis. Stat. § 32.05(3-6)) In this case, the property owner signs the deed over to the condemning authority and payment is made.Important: If, upon receiving the jurisdictional offer, the property owner signs the deed over to the condemning authority, they have 6 months to file a claim for additional compensation with in the circuit court. (Wis. Stat. § 32.05(2a)
12. Government Acquires Property by Filing Award of Damages
If negotiations are ignored or unsuccessful, the condemning authority must, before acquisition through condemnation, provide a jurisdictional offer for the property owner. This offer will contain information such as the nature of the project, the amount of compensation, the proposed date of occupancy, etc. Most importantly, it will state that the property owner has 20 days to accept or reject this offer. (Wis. Stat. § 32.05(3-6))If, upon receiving the jurisdictional offer, the property owner does not sign the deed over to the condemning authority, the government may make an award of damages. Upon payment of the award to the property owner, the deed is transferred to the condemning authority. Payment may be made by sending a check directly to the owner, or depositing the award with the clerk of courts in the appropriate county. (Wis. Stat. § 32.05(4))Important: The property owner has 2 years from when the deed is transferred to file a claim for additional damages with in the circuit court. (Wis. Stat. § 32.05(9)(a))
13. File Claim in Circuit Court
In WI, the property owner initiates the claim for additional damages.  The property owners attorney must file a claim with the circuit court in order for the property owner to receive additional compensation.  If no claim is made with in the designated time frame, then the owner has no chance at receiving additional compensation.
14. Have Claim Heard by 3 Person Commissioner Panel
The claim may be assigned to the county condemnation commissioners, who will determine the award of compensation. (Wis. Stat. § 32.05(9)(a)). In counties having a population of less than 100,000 there shall be 6 commissioners; in counties having a population of 100,000 or more and less than 500,000 there shall be 9 commissioners; in counties having a population of 500,000 or more there shall be 12 commissioners. Each such commissioner must be a resident of the county or of an adjoining county in the same judicial circuit prior to appointment and remain so during the term of office. Not more than one-third of such commissioners shall be attorneys at law, licensed for active practice in this state. (Wis. Stat. § 32.08)The award shall be paid within 70 days of the filing of the commissioner’s award unless an appeal is taken to the circuit court. In the event that the appeal is dismissed before trial, payment must be made within 60 days of the dismissal date. (Wis. Stat. § 32.05(9)(c))
15. Either Owner or Government can Appeal to Circuit Court
The property owner or the condemning authority may appeal the commissioner’s award to the circuit court with in 60 days of the award being filed. Notice of the appeal will be given to the clerk of the circuit court and all persons involved in the proceeding. The notice may be delivered via certified mail or by personal service. Then, a new trial will be conducted in the circuit court of the appropriate county. The trial will be heard by a jury, unless the request is waived by both parties. (Wis. Stat. § 32.05(10))
16. Owner Not Satisfied with Settlement
If, after deeding their property to the government, they property owner decides they are not happy with their settlement, they may still file a claim for additional damages as long as they are within the designated timeframe.
17. Conduct Trial with Jury in Circuit Court to Determine Just Compensation
A property owner may request to bypass the commissioners hearing and proceed directly to jury trial. Any award given by the court shall be paid within 60 days of judgment. (Wis. Stat. § 32.05(11)(c))

 

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

The eminent domain process in the state of Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin.

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