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What Happens if I Refuse to Sell My Property Through Eminent Domain?

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Being told that the government will take some or all of your land for a public use project can be a scary and complicated situation for any landowner. The idea of having to sell a property that may sometimes have been in the family for generations can be overwhelming, leading many owners to wonder whether there is anything they can do to stop the process and keep their land. Our attorneys provide an overview of the land condemnation process and how a landowner’s rights can be protected with the help of an attorney.

What Does Land Condemnation Mean, and When Is It Allowed?

Eminent domain is the power of the government to take land for public use. The government may exercise this power through the process of land condemnation, which simply means the government takes a portion of a property or the whole property and pays the owner an adequate amount. This is different from the condemnation of a property (such as an old house) due to it being unsafe.

The government can take private property whenever it is determined that doing so would benefit the public. The classic example is that of a road construction project. If a city or town’s main freeway needs to be widened to improve the flow of traffic, the government may need to take portions of private land to allow for another lane to be built. In order to do that, the government agency would need to send an appraiser to value the property. After the property value is determined, the landowner may receive an offer. At this point, the landowner has the option to accept the offer or refuse it.

Can I Resist a Land Condemnation Claim and Refuse to Sell?

Unfortunately, once a taking of land through eminent domain powers is set in motion, there is not much a landowner can do to stop it. If the government agency taking the land can prove that it is for the good of the public, the landowner is limited to negotiating with the government to try to secure a fair offer for their property.

In cases where the landowner is not in agreement with the government’s offer, the government agency may still proceed with taking ownership of the land and may place the settlement money in an escrow account. The case may then be analyzed by a commission, and if the landowner still does not agree with the offer, the case may proceed to trial. In short, you cannot refuse to sell your property but may still fight for fair compensation.

What Happens if I Don’t Agree With the Government’s Offer?

If you disagree with the initial offer you receive from the government for your land, you may reject the offer. If that is the case, the government may send another appraiser to conduct a new valuation of your land. However, it may be in your best interest to hire your own independent appraiser, and an eminent domain lawyer can assist you with this process.

Hiring an independent appraiser is crucial to ensure you obtain the fair market value of your property, as it is quite common for the government to try and acquire private land as cheaply as possible. The appraiser can also help you determine if the government’s use of the land would devalue your property in any way (in the case of a partial taking).

How Can an Attorney Help Me Negotiate With the Government?

While there is not much you can do to stop the government from taking your land, you can and should still fight for fair compensation, and an attorney can help you with the negotiation process. An eminent domain attorney can assist you with the steps required to conduct an independent appraisal and argue your case before a commission. An attorney can also take your case to trial if necessary.

At Hansen, Howell & Wilkie, PLLC, our eminent domain attorneys focus on protecting the rights of landowners facing land condemnation, helping them ensure they get paid what they deserve. Contact our office at 919-256-5266 to see how we can help you.

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