Residential Home Owners
Perhaps you have received a letter from your state Department of Transportation or from the regional electric or gas company notifying you that your home is located in the path of a proposed road or pipeline. You have heard about this project and the positive impact it will have on your city or state. You don’t want to stand in the way of progress or be considered a holdout. Yet, this is your home, your family, your future. What should you do?
When you become aware of the possible acquisition of your property, do not hesitate to contact one of our eminent domain attorneys for an initial consultation. OCA lawyers are familiar with the complexities of eminent domain laws and procedures in your state and can advise you how best to protect your home against a forced sale under eminent domain.
Case Studies – Taking of Residential Property by Eminent Domain
Case Study #1 – Partial Takings of Front Yards and Driveways in Riverfront Residential Neighborhood
A local transportation authority proposed the widening of a tree-lined scenic road along a river to accommodate the increased traffic flow leading into an expanding downtown. In order to widen the road from two lanes to four lanes, the transportation authority needed to acquire portions of the private property along the road, consisting mostly of single-family homes in an established residential neighborhood. Mature trees and shrubs along the road were cut and removed reducing the canopy and removing a natural noise buffer between the homes and the road. A median was built to ensure safety of motorists and pedestrians. The speed limit was increased from 35 MPH to 45 MPH and the final road was built at a grade as much as 6 feet higher in some locations than the previous roadway.
Initial offers to the homeowners represented a fair price for the 20-40 feet taken. However, the offers did not account for the damages to the remaining property – the reduction in value as a result of the taking. With the assistance of experienced eminent domain counsel, a number of homeowners were able to reach a settlement with the authority prior to trial at an amount two to three times the initial offers. A handful of owners remained unsatisfied with the authority’s offers at mediation and decided to proceed to trial. These owners were especially concerned about the manner in which their properties would be left after the road was built. Some would have severe inclines in their driveways due to the grade of the new road and shortened driveways. Others were concerned about the loss of multiple mature trees that protected their homes from the sight and sound of traffic. Other issues included the relocation of septic tanks, wells and fencing. Following a jury trial, these owners were awarded as much as 7 to 9 times more than the initial amounts offered to them by the transportation authority. The jury had found that their property values had been severely reduced by the taking for the road and compensated the owners for their losses.
Case Study #2 – Partial Taking of Residential Property for Natural Gas Pipeline Easement
One of the country’s largest energy infrastructure companies was granted the power of eminent domain to construct an intrastate natural gas pipeline that would transport and provide energy to residents and businesses along a 5,000 mile route through five states. The energy company sought to acquire easement rights as well as temporary construction easements from a residential property owner in a rural county. Easements – the legal right to use property for a limited purpose – were needed from hundreds of property owners along the route and would allow the company the ability to construct and maintain the underground pipeline while the property owner remained the owner of the land. While the property owner retains title to, or ownership of, the land encumbered by the easement, the owner may have limited use of the property. When a pipeline is buried underground, the terms of the easement may prohibit the landowner from constructing or cultivating anything within the easement. Most easements are perpetual, meaning there is no time limit or expiration date – the easement holder retains the right to use the property forever. Easements can be limited in time, such easements may be referred to as temporary easements or construction easements.
For this residential property, the peacefulness and seclusion of the home’s forested location was a benefit and added significant value to the property’s overall market value. The energy company offered less than $1,000 to acquire a temporary construction easement as well as a perpetual easement to construct the pipeline along one side and across the back of the property. In order to construct the pipeline all of the mature trees within both the temporary and permanent easements were removed. The removal of this wooded area eliminated the natural buffer between the home and adjacent railroad tracks. Additionally, the removal of the wooded area opened the previously secluded property to the noise and view of a nearby landfill. With the assistance of an experienced eminent domain, the homeowner reached a settlement agreement with the energy company at an increase of nearly 30 times the initial offer.
Please note: The just compensation awards received by homeowners in these case studies are samples of the results Owners’ Counsel of America attorneys have achieved for their landowner clients. While we can not guarantee the same or similar result in every case, this information is presented to assist you in understanding possible scenarios that can affect your property rights as well as to demonstrate the skill of OCA lawyers. The outcome of your case will depend upon its particular facts and circumstances. It should not be assumed that your case will conclude with a result similar to the case studies above.