The government's right to take private property to complete a public project understandably sparks fears and concerns among property owners. When confronted with the threat of condemnation, or transferring ownership of a property to the government, owners often jump to a number of conclusions about what may happen. While there are legitimate concerns regarding the abuse of eminent domain powers, it is important to dispel certain misunderstandings about this complex process.
Common misconceptions regarding eminent domain include the following:
- The government can simply choose how much to pay for a property.
- Holding out for the highest payout is better than simply reaching an agreement.
- State agencies and local governments can choose how to use their powers of eminent domain.
- The government must pay for any interference with a private property.
Under U.S. law, federal and state governments are required to pay what is considered just compensation to the property owner based on the current market value of that property. Of course, the government will attempt to negotiate the lowest price possible, but a knowledgeable, aggressive attorney can ensure that you receive an accurate and fair amount.
In many cases, when a property owner attempts to hold out for a significant government payout for his or her property, the cost of litigation and other expenses can outweigh any slight gains in compensation. A lawyer can certainly help owners reach an ideal agreement, but stubbornness will not help the owner in the long run.
Government agencies are granted the authority to use eminent domain for specific purposes by the legislature. For example, local state governments may use eminent domain for necessary projects, such as building schools, roads, parks, and other buildings for public use. The government may not use the power to take beyond the circumstances mandated under the law.
When the government begins construction on a property, surrounding private properties in the neighborhood may be impacted. For example, if a new highway has been constructed near a private property, altering travel routes to that property, the owners may not be entitled to compensation. However, if it is determined that construction of the highway has caused a landslide, flooding, or other damage to a private property, the owners may be able to recover compensation.
The experienced Los Angeles eminent domain attorneys at the Peterson Law Group, P.C. can help you determine the best course of legal action if you are faced with eminent domain. Call John S. Peterson at (213) 236-9720 for a consultation about your situation and your rights.