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March 3rd, 2016 — By — In Articles

I Received a Condemnation Notice. What are My Rights?

If you received a condemnation notice or a notice that your property may be needed for a public project, it means that a federal, state or local government authority is seeking to acquire your property (or an interest in your property) using the power of eminent domain.

Eminent domain is the power granted to the government and governmental agencies to seize private property for public use. This power is not absolute and as a property owner, you have a number of important legal rights. However, protecting these rights can be a challenge. For private owners who suddenly find that their properties sit in the way of public (and, in some cases, private) projects, the threat of condemnation can be a very real concern. As a result, if you have received a notice of condemnation, it is in your best interest to speak with an experienced eminent domain lawyer as soon as possible.

Your Rights After Receiving a Condemnation Notice

As the owner of a private property, your rights are protected by state law, federal law and the U.S. Constitution – specifically, the Fifth Amendment.

Private property owners’ rights include the following:

  • Public purpose – The Fifth Amendment requires that the government only condemn private property for a public purpose. While “public purpose” is not clearly defined, there are some guidelines outlining reasons the government can – and can’t – take private property.
  • Due process – Under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, all citizens are entitled to due process of law, before the government can take their property. With respect to eminent domain, landowners are entitled to notice of and to be heard before the government can deprive them of their property. The notice must provide reasonable information that would provide affected landowners and other interested parties adequate time and opportunity to respond.
  • Just compensation – The Fifth Amendment also requires the condemning authority to pay just compensation for property taken using the power of eminent domain. The requirement that landowners receive just compensation for property acquired by eminent domain provides the owner a financial payment in exchange for the loss of his or her property to the use of the public.  When a portion of a property is taken, the owner may be entitled to compensation for the value of the part taken as well as any damages to remaining property.
  • Expense reimbursements – State laws across the country provide opportunities for landowners to recover some or all of their attorneys’ fees, relocation costs, appraisal or survey fees and other expenses incurred as a result of the government’s exercise of eminent domain.
  • Dispute – Perhaps most importantly, if the government attempts to condemn your property, you have the right to consult with an attorney and to fight back. An experienced eminent domain lawyer will be able to help you identify all possible grounds to challenge the government’s exercise of eminent domain, will assist you in obtaining just compensation for your property and will help you navigate the complex procedures and deadlines of eminent domain litigation.

Unfortunately, government agencies can exceed their authority in attempting to condemn private property. For owners who do nothing, this can result in serious violations of their Constitutional rights and potentially costly losses to their property. For owners who fight back, the process can be a struggle, but the outcome is generally worth the investment.

Contact an Eminent Domain Lawyer with Owners’ Counsel of America

From preventing an unconstitutional taking to ensuring the payment of just compensation, there are numerous issues to consider when you receive a condemnation notice. To learn more, read our FAQs or contact an attorney with Owners’ Counsel of America in your state today.