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Can You Negotiate Better Terms Once Your Property Is Targeted for Eminent Domain?

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What Should You Do if Your Property Has Been Targeted For Eminent Domain?

The legal concept of eminent domain allows governments at various levels to acquire land, buildings, and other assets for projects deemed to benefit the community, such as roads, bridges, or public facilities. While it may be nerve-wracking and frustrating to receive notification that your property has been targeted for eminent domain, it’s vital to remember that you have protected legal rights built into the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. You are entitled to challenge the legality of seizures and request fair payment for the loss of your property.

Eminent domain laws vary by jurisdiction but generally follow a structured process involving appraisal, negotiation, and potential condemnation proceedings if the property owner and government agency cannot reach an agreement. While property owners may not have full control over whether their property is seized under eminent domain, they do have rights to ensure they receive fair treatment and compensation in line with constitutional requirements. However, seeking solid legal representation from an experienced eminent domain attorney as soon as possible can be essential. A knowledgeable attorney can uphold your rights and negotiate the best possible terms for your case.

How Can You Improve the Terms of an Eminent Domain Transaction?

The compulsory nature of an eminent domain transaction separates it from a typical real estate deal. In nearly all cases where a property has been targeted for eminent domain, the government will eventually acquire it if the proposed project comes to fruition. However, this does not mean you must accept the first compensation offer provided by the government agency. If you are dissatisfied with the terms of the initial compensation offer, taking the following steps may help you negotiate better terms for the transfer of your property:

  • Avoid delays: Getting involved in the eminent domain process as early as possible is crucial. Being proactive can help even the playing field if the government decides to go through with its plans. You should also know any legal deadlines associated with eminent domain claims. Failing to meet these deadlines could jeopardize your right to additional compensation.
  • Seek legal counsel: Consulting with an attorney before making any decisions is recommended. Your attorney can evaluate your situation and determine the best course of action for moving forward.
  • Gather appraisal information: Property owners should ask for a copy of the appraisal on which the government’s offer is based. Understanding the value conclusions and the basis for those conclusions in the government’s appraisal is essential in deciding whether the offer is fair. Obtaining your own appraisal can strengthen your position and provide bolstering evidence, but should be done through your attorney.
  • Make a counteroffer: If the initial offer made by the government is significantly less than what you believe your property is worth, you have the right to make a counteroffer. However, this requires more than just submitting a higher number. You must provide legal justification and support for the higher valuation of your land. A skilled eminent domain lawyer can assess when you are entitled to more compensation and help make a reasonable counteroffer.
  • Consider creative solutions: While securing a fair purchase price for your property is important, other aspects of the transaction may be up for negotiation. For example, if the project isn’t scheduled to begin until years later, you may be able to negotiate your right to use the land until things get underway.

What is the Difference Between a normal bank Appraisal and an Eminent Domain Appraisall?

In eminent domain negotiations, the difference between a standard loan appraisal and an eminent domain appraisal is significant. A bank appraisal focuses on determining the price a property would fetch in the open market under normal conditions, assuming a willing buyer and a willing seller. These types of appraisals are crucial in establishing the baseline value of the property being seized.

An eminent domain appraisal, on the other hand, is specifically tailored to eminent domain cases. It aims to calculate the total compensation due to the property owner for the loss incurred due to the government taking of their property. Just compensation can include considerations beyond just the land’s current value. It may encompass factors like the value of easements, damages to the remaining land in partial condemnations, and the loss of use and enjoyment of part of the property.

What Are the Benefits of Negotiation Over Litigation?

While litigation may sometimes be necessary if you cannot reach a satisfactory agreement with the government agency, it is strongly recommended to first attempt negotiation and/or mediation to resolve issues. These less adversarial methods can allow you to find common ground with the government and potentially recover the fair compensation you are entitled to. By enlisting the help of an eminent domain lawyer with strong negotiation skills, you may be able to take advantage of the benefits of avoiding trial, including:

  • Reduced expenses: Trial costs can be high and may strain finances for many property owners. Negotiation can be a more cost-effective option, preserving the benefits of seeking better compensation.
  • Faster conclusion: Court proceedings can be lengthy and stressful. While the duration of eminent domain negotiations can vary depending on their complexity, they can take as little as a couple of weeks. The shortened timeline can reduce uncertainty and anxiety for property owners.
  • Increased options: A court can only rule on just compensation in your case. However, careful negotiation between your lawyer and the government may allow you to seek compromises in addition to your compensation, such as project modifications, that are innovative and better suited to your needs.

How Can Our Experienced Lawyers Assist You?

Our legal team at Hansen, Howell & Wilkie, PLLC is uniquely focused on eminent domain law. Our combined experience in the legal and real estate spheres allows us to navigate complex cases skillfully. We take pride in representing the interests of landowners and ensuring their constitutional rights are protected. Contact our Raleigh office today at 984-205-8453 to schedule a free case analysis and learn more about your options.

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