As a property owner, nothing is scarier than being served an eminent domain notice. Nevertheless, it is a constitutionally-protected right which permits governmental bodies to forcibly acquire private property for public use.
It might be outrageous, but few people have been able to prevent bureaucrats from exercising this power. As such, we strongly advise settling rather than refusing to sell.
In this post, we’ll fill you in on the actions you should take if you have become a target of an eminent domain order.
Lawyer up immediately
An eminent domain notice is packed with legalese you might end up misinterpreting, making it advisable to hire a lawyer as soon as you learn the government wants your land/house.
There are many eminent domain attorneys in Los Angeles who can help you get the best possible deal, as they have taken cases for numerous individuals over the years who have had their property taken due to utility upgrades, road projects, and private developments.
The last example is one that incites a lot of outrage, but governments have been able to seize land on behalf of private developers ever since the Kelo Supreme Court case ruled that increased tax revenue constitutes an acceptable example of ‘the public good’.
Unfair as it may be, governments have a tremendous amount of power at their disposal in these cases, making it important to have a battle-tested eminent domain lawyer on your team.
Figure out what your property is worth
If you want your eminent domain case to have a good outcome, it is imperative you know exactly what your property is worth.
The government already knows, but they will lowball you as hard as they can to show taxpayers they are managing the public purse responsibly.
Accordingly, you will need to hire an appraiser who will tell you exactly what you should be getting for your property.
Once you have that number, you and your legal counsel will know exactly what actions to take as your expropriation case proceeds.
Settle ASAP or fight on?
With a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of eminent domain and an accurate valuation of your home, you will be properly equipped to go into settlement negotiations.
Should you settle fast or hold out for more money?
If the government is offering compensation over the valuation you have been quoted or if the first offer is reasonable in what is otherwise a lousy housing market, move to settle as soon as possible.
You should hold out for a larger settlement if their offer is insultingly low or if you are in a hot seller’s market. If you opt for this strategy, follow the advice of your lawyer at all times to avoid having a frustrated government negotiator force a settlement on you.
Principled political stands often come at a price
Many property owners flat out refuse to sell, opting to battle the government through the media and grassroots action.
Some succeed in their endeavor, but others end up getting forced out of their home with a settlement far less than they could have gotten had they sat down at the negotiating table.
This doesn’t have to be your fate – get representation, make your case, and you’ll get all the money you need to start your life over.