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Eminent Domain: Different Approaches For Just Compensation

In previous posts, we discussed eminent domain because it concerns home and land owners. Because the thought of losing your land to the government may make you feel powerless, we explained that you are entitled to due process and just compensation. Anyone who has sold a home before in a seller’s market may have experienced appraisal challenges. For instance, when you purchase a home, your lender will likely not grant a loan higher than the appraised value. Furthermore, two different appraisals could come in at significantly different amounts.

The former could be caused by rapidly increasing sale prices of other comparable homes. When there are more buyers than sellers, bidding wars and cash offers can rapidly drive up home values. Due to how many different components get factored into an appraisal, someone could make an error on one of them, drastically affecting the estimate.

The Same Applies To Eminent Domain

Before reaching the compensation component, the government must prove that your land is needed for public use before they can seize it. This, too, can be challenged by experienced and accomplished eminent domain attorneys such as E. Scott Copeland. However, if you have reached the point where compensation is being negotiated, then the government will have an appraiser determine what just compensation should be. Like a typical residential home sale, the appraiser will look at the value

of the land that your property is on, improvements made to the home (which the homeowner would have invested their money into), and how much other homes have sold for in the area—sometimes referred to as “comps.” Here are other examples of what they look at:

  • Size of the land

  • Zoning

  • Encumbrances on the property

  • The use of public and private utilities

Additionally, the appraiser is required to access certain elements that would exist outside of general residential property transactions. For instance, there may not be a home on the land. If a business exists, how much income is the business receiving? Before arriving at a number, the appraiser must determine the “highest and best use” of the property. Although this ensures you are compensated fairly, the appraisal may still be lower than expected. Ultimately, you, as a landowner, have to accept the offer.

Refusing to sign or accept the offer will likely result in a lawsuit. (Note that you will still be compensated if you lose the case and can even challenge the amount later.) None of this means you cannot negotiate the terms of the sale, something an attorney will do on your behalf. With their assistance, you can have an independent appraiser generate their own report. Your attorney can negotiat

e a more substantial compensation package if the number exceeds the government's assessment.

Use Your Voice

You are not powerless even when the government attempts to seize your property. Attorney E. Scott Copeland has experience with direct condemnation by government agencies, inverse condemnation, and linear corridor acquisitions. He has handled cases where a property’s value is questioned due to land use and zoning. Contact our office and schedule a consultation when you discover that you may lose your property due to eminent domain.


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