Eminent Domain or Condemnation is the legal process that the government, or entity with governmental authority, may use to acquire private property for a public purpose. The entity exercising the power of eminent domain is called the condemning authority and the property being sought is called a parcel.
Typically, all government entities have authority to take property by eminent domain. In addition, certain public utilities also may exercise this power. The condemning authority is usually represented by one or more attorneys and one or more representatives, an engineering department or consultants, real estate appraisers, planners, accountants, etc.
A whole team of experts is assembled to design and proceed with the proposed project which includes the taking of your property. The first step is to understand your rights in an eminent domain case. Either you will need to research the law yourself or retain an attorney to help you.
In most cases, your legal fees, costs, and costs of expert consultants such as appraisers, are paid by the condemning authority as part of full compensation to you. Your attorney will assist you in negotiating a pre-suit settlement with the condemning authority if possible or at least, evaluate the initial offer made by the condemning authority for the taking of your property.
You need to also understand the impact the project will have on your property. What portion of your property is being taken? Why is it being taken? How will the project impact the remaining property/business? Your attorney can thoroughly review the project to see if there are alternatives which have not been considered as well as advise you on the condemning authorities “good faith” offer. These initial offers often do not compensate for the full market value of your property, pay you damages for the remaining property or offer to cover relocation expenses.