Homeownership in California can be a tough dream to make real. Median prices in Silicon Valley are in the seven digits, according to Zillow. In Los Angeles, the median price is estimated at nearly $600,000. If you own a home, you want to make the most of it.
If you are faced with the threat of eminent domain, you need to know what your options are for maintaining possession. If that isn't possible, you need to be confident that you are compensated based on all relevant factors, not just what the government entity seeking your property decides.
Steps to take
As a homeowner, you know what it took to get your property. You also know what you have put into it to improve it. What you may not know is all the tools that the government has at its disposal for taking that property from you through eminent domain. While the law requires the payment of "just compensation," what is just means different things to the owner and the taker.
Step one should be to speak to an experienced attorney. As soon as you hear eminent domain proceedings are underway, whether it is by letter, face-to-face notice or phone call, take the position that you are now party to a lawsuit. Action needs to begin now for optimal protection of your rights.
The condemning entity is required to get an unbiased appraisal of the property to determine just compensation. Regardless of what that appraisal delivers, get a second opinion from someone you choose. California will pay up to $5,000 of the cost for the property owner's appraisal. Assuming your own appraisal is higher than the government's, you have some room for negotiating
Be aware of the market. Passage of time could see property values rise and if a case moves slowly, the value could be reset later at a price more beneficial to you. If values are on the wane, it might be better to press to close the case quickly. Otherwise, the government might stall action to pay less later.
If government abuse of eminent domain power is suspected, a court battle might be appropriate. However, it's important to appreciate that politics and not just legal factors may influence the outcome.
Source: realestate.usnews.com, "What to Do When You're a Homeowner Threatened With Eminent Domain," Devon Thorsby, accessed Feb. 13, 2018