California Eminent Domain Law – Eminent Domain Explained
What Is Eminent Domain?
Eminent domain is the power of federal, state, or local government agencies to take private property for public use upon payment of just compensation to the property owner.
Our eminent domain lawyers specialize in eminent domain legal services and further explains California’s eminent domain process and proceedings below.
How Does Eminent Domain Work?
Can the government force me to sell my property?
Generally, yes. The government can use its power of eminent domain even if the property owner does not wish to sell his or her property. The federal, state or local government has the power to take private property for public use as long as it pays the property owner just compensation.
Experienced counsel of California eminent domain law should be consulted to determine whether the government has offered “just compensation” for the taking of private property. Property owners are often unaware of facts that could result in a substantially larger offer of compensation from the government.
Can I challenge the government’s right to take my property?
Even though the government has the power of eminent domain in California law, a property owner may challenge the government’s right to take property in certain circumstances. However, these challenges are difficult to make given the great power given to the government and the broad definition of “public use.” Common challenges to the government’s right to take include failure of the government to follow the proper procedural steps to exercise its power of eminent domain.
Experienced eminent domain attorneys should be consulted to determine whether the property owner has a claim to challenge the government’s taking of private property. Our team will explain the details of how your eminent domain case will work. Contact our eminent domain law office today.
Eminent Domain Process
I’ve received notice of a hearing on a “Resolution of Necessity.” What does this mean?
A “Resolution of Necessity” is a formal resolution to acquire private property. The government agency must adopt this Resolution before it can commence an eminent domain proceeding. A property owner has the opportunity to speak at this hearing.
Experienced eminent domain counsel in California law should be consulted when notice of a “Resolution of Necessity” hearing is given to preserve the property owner’s rights and make the property owner’s position known to the government agency at the hearing.
Does the government have to give me notice before deciding to take my property?
Yes. Before a government agency can commence an eminent domain proceeding in California, it must adopt a formal resolution to take the property, called a “Resolution of Necessity.” This Resolution must be adopted at a public hearing, and the government agency must give the property owner notice of the hearing and an opportunity to speak at the hearing.
Failure to make certain arguments at the hearing on the Resolution could result in a waiver of the ability to raise those arguments later. Victims should consult an attorney that specializes in California eminent domain law when notice of a Resolution of Necessity hearing is given to preserving the property owner’s rights.
Will the government help me relocate?
A relocation agent often contacts a property owner to provide relocation assistance to residents and business owners. Some but not all the costs of moving a business and reestablishing it at a new location will be reimbursed by the government by way of relocation benefits. Our lawyers will explain the process of your eminent domain case.
Eminent Domain Compensation Process
How is the compensation for my property determined?
The government must pay fair market value for the property. Fair market value is the highest price that would be paid on the open market, by a buyer acting at arm’s length, knowing all the facts and not acting under pressure. Fair market value is not a lowball price.
You do not have to take the compensation the government offers you. Often the government will deposit into court what it thinks your property is worth. You can withdraw this deposit and still claim that your property is worth more than the amount of the deposit.
Can the government take my property without making me an offer of compensation?
No. The government is required to obtain an appraisal and make a written offer of compensation to the owner of a record of the property to be taken before the agency commences court proceedings. The offer of compensation cannot be less than the agency’s appraisal of the property. The government agency must also provide a property owner with a summary of the basis for the compensation amount in the appraisal.
Am I required to accept the government’s offer of compensation for my property?
No. A property owner is not required to accept the government agency’s offer of compensation. The property owner can make a counter-offer or assert a higher value of the property once the eminent domain complaint is filed in court.
Property owners and business owners often receive higher compensation than the amount offered by the government agency by asserting a claim for greater compensation. Eminent domain lawyers should be contacted to evaluate each case on its own merits and determine whether the government’s offer of compensation is fair or whether greater compensation may be claimed.
Am I entitled to compensation if the government wants to take only a part of my property?
The government must provide compensation for the value of the part of the property to be taken, along with compensation for the damage to the remaining property. Damage to the remaining property is called “severance damages.” “Severance damages” range from non-existent to close to the value of the entire property.
Experienced attorneys in California eminent domain law should be consulted to determine whether there is a claim for severance damages and assist in conducting an appraisal of the severance damages.
Are business losses compensable?
A business owner may be entitled to any loss of business “goodwill” caused by the taking of property on which the business is located. “Goodwill” is the benefits that accrue to a business as a result of its location, reputation for dependability, skill, or quality, and any other circumstances resulting in probable retention of old or acquisition of new patronage.
How the business’s income translates into goodwill is determined by experienced business appraisers. Some businesses possess no goodwill value, while others possess thousands or millions of dollars of goodwill value.
An eminent domain law group should be consulted to determine whether there is a claim for loss of business goodwill and help conduct a business goodwill appraisal by working with business appraisers with experience in California eminent domain law and commercial lease valuations. As we work on your case, our lawyers will explain the eminent domain compensation process.
Eminent Domain Proceedings
What are the typical steps involved in an eminent domain proceeding?
When the government wants to take private property by eminent domain, the government will take some or all of the following steps:
Initial contact by the government agency to express interest in the property.
Valuation of the real estate property by the government-retained appraiser.
Offer to purchase the property made to the property owner.
Notice of public hearing to adopt a “Resolution of Necessity” to acquire private property by eminent domain.
Public hearing held to adopt a “Resolution of Necessity” to acquire private property by eminent domain.
Eminent domain complaint is filed in court by the government and served on the property owner.
Deposit by the government of its assessment of the probable amount of just compensation into the court and motion by the government for pre-judgment possession of the private property.
Both sides conduct discovery and hire appraisers to determine the “fair market value” of the property being taken.
The property owner and government exchange their respective appraisers’ reports about the “fair market value” of the property being taken.
Parties exchange final settlement offers and demands.
If the parties are unable to settle, an eminent domain trial takes places before a jury to determine the “fair market value” of the property.
Jury returns verdict and judgment is entered.
Government pays the judgment within 30 days following entry of judgment, and title to the property is transferred from the property owner to the government by the court.
Talk about the government taking property by eminent domain for a public project has been going on for years. Should I just wait and see if there is ever more than just talk?
You can wait, but people often wait too long. The best strategy is to be proactive. While planning a public project may take a long time, the government taking your property by eminent domain happens quickly.
It is vital to find experienced eminent domain counsel to safeguard your rights and make sure you receive what you are entitled to. Experienced eminent domain attorneys in California law will prevent the government from shortchanging you. Our lawyers will explain the eminent domain proceedings as we work through your case. Contact our law office today.
Do I Need an Eminent Domain Attorney?
While a property or business owner may be able to negotiate what he or she believes is a fair price without legal representation, the reality is that in most circumstances owners will obtain a significantly better monetary result when they are represented by experienced and knowledgeable counsel.
Eminent domain is a highly specialized area of law in California. Most property owners and general attorneys do not know the full extent of the compensation to which they are entitled. It is vital to obtain experienced attorneys in California eminent domain law to represent your interests and ensure that you are not shortchanged by the government.
Disclaimer: This website is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.