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What Is Eminent Domain?

Eminent domain is a forced sale of private property to the government for a public project. The government has a legal right to utilize eminent domain, but it must pay the property owner “just compensation.” What is just compensation? That is typically the issue determined in the court process. The question of just compensation is defined in the state of California to be the fair market value of the property, which carries a special meaning in eminent domain. Everyone who owns property in California is subject to the possibility that the government can acquire it for a public purpose.

What Are My Rights in Eminent Domain?

Your rights in eminent domain are to be paid just compensation for your property. In certain instances, you also have a right to challenge the right to take your property but you are limited to challenging upon the grounds that you properly assert at the time of the resolution of necessity hearing. Such a challenge is typically based on facts that establish that there is a lack of public use or necessity in acquiring the property.

Once an eminent domain case gets to court, the property owner has the right to seek just compensation and to hire its own appraisers in order to establish its view of just compensation. Then, the eminent domain case comes down to determining the value of just compensation, given the two appraisal opinions. Ultimately, the parties have a right to a jury trial to determine value based on the appraisals that each side offers. If a business is operating on a property taken by eminent domain, it is entitled to certain relocation benefits, as well as claims for loss of business goodwill as a result of being forced to relocate involuntarily.

Can I Refuse the Government’s Offer to Buy My Property?

You can refuse the government’s offer, but that doesn’t mean it will stop the process. Oftentimes, a refusal will lead to a government trying to evaluate whether it can avoid buying your property and still maintain its project. If the agency determines it cannot avoid including your property in a project footprint, ordinarily, the government will continue to move forward to acquire your property through the formal eminent domain process.

I Was Served With A Complaint In Eminent Domain. What Do I Do?

If you have been served with a complaint in eminent domain, you have been sued in court and are now a defendant. A California eminent domain attorney can help protect your rights. Typically, you only have 30 days to answer the complaint after being served with it.

A Government Agency Wants to Buy My Property. Do I Need a Lawyer?

The other side is being advised by lawyers, so it makes sense for you to consult with an attorney in order to fully understand your rights and fully explore your pursuit of just compensation. Without your own attorney, the other side’s attorneys will move a case forward and you could be faced with a jury trial without your own attorney. Assuming you do not like the offer that was given to you, a California eminent domain lawyer can help you achieve just compensation. In eminent domain, just compensation means the “fair market value” of the property that is being acquired, which carries a definition and application that is unique to an eminent domain proceeding.

What Is Just Compensation in Eminent Domain?

“Just compensation” is the “fair market value” of the property, which carries a special meaning in eminent domain proceedings. There is a Code of Civil Procedure Section in California that defines fair market value. Code of Civil Procedure section 1263.320(a) states that “The fair market value of the property taken is the highest price on the date of valuation that would be agreed to by a seller being willing to sell but under no particular or urgent necessity for so doing, nor obliged to sell, and a buyer being ready, willing and able to buy but under no particular necessity for so doing, each dealing with the other with full knowledge of all the uses and purposes for which the property is reasonably adaptable and available.” At trial of an eminent domain case, the jury is instructed to apply that definition when the jury determines the value of the property being taken by the government.

For more information on eminent domain Laws in California, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (213) 236-9720 today.

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