How does eminent domain work?

The population is growing, and so must the infrastructure that supports it.

Cities and counties throughout California are constantly building new roads, expanding current freeways, reconfiguring underground sewer and water systems, and the like in an effort to provide for the population of that city or community. Sometimes these governmental bodies already own the property on which they are building; other times, they must first acquire the property. When a form of government acquires private property for such public use, it does so through the right of eminent domain.

Once a government entity determines that a parcel of real property is necessary for a public project, it will have an appraisal made of the property. This appraisal will provide the government's basis for making a precondemnation offer to purchase property; a legal prerequisite to formal eminent domain proceedings.

If the owner does not accept the offer, the matter is submitted to a "resolution of necessity" hearing, during which the board or council of a specific government entity votes to condemn the property by eminent domain.  Once the resolution passes, the matter is turned over to the government's attorneys who file a complaint in eminent domain, naming the property owner, tenant(s), business owner on the property, and any lien or mortgage holders, as well as any persons or entities believed to have an interest in the property based on the latest chain of title or other recorded documents.

The eminent domain case is a court supervised proceeding assigned to a superior court judge, and progresses similarly to any other type of civil case filed in superior court.  Eminent domain is governed by its own sections of the California Code of Civil Procedure, as well as the Evidence Code and case law interpreting the statutory laws.  Businesses on the property to be acquired are entitled to relocation benefits under the California Relocation Assistance Act.

Eminent domain arises from the Federal and State Constitutions.  The government has the legal right to acquire property for a public use or project, but the owners are entitled to "just compensation."

Peterson Law Group has focused on property rights for over 30 years, and devotes most of its attention to representation of private property and business owners in eminent domain matters against the government.

Condemnation proceedings provide the property owner with the opportunity to also have an appraisal done on the property. This new appraisal can then be reviewed in conjunction with the one provided by the government entity. Throughout this process, the landowner will often benefit from working with an experienced attorney to make sure that his or her rights are protected.

Many times, the infrastructure created through eminent domain is necessary and good for the California community. However, it may not always be what is in the best interest of the property owner. There are numerous factors that need to be taken into consideration before and during eminent domain and condemnation proceedings.

Source:, "How the Government Takes Property", Accessed on July 2, 2017

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