In a series of ongoing posts, we've been attempting to provide comprehensive, yet comprehensible, background information on the otherwise complex procedure of eminent domain.
To that end, our first post examined the specific legal meanings assigned to each of the terms found within the Fifth Amendment's discussion of eminent domain, while our second post expanded upon the various types of takings that can occur via eminent domain.
In today's post, we'll discuss the general legal process that unfolds when the government decides to acquire privately owned land via eminent domain.
Legal procedures and eminent domain
Once the government sets it sights upon a certain parcel of privately owned land, it will typically attempt to negotiate a fair purchase price directly with the owner.
If the negotiations prove unsuccessful or the owner simply has no interest in selling, the government will file the necessary paperwork outlining its intention to initiate the eminent domain process and a court hearing will be scheduled thereafter. The government will then have to provide the owner with notice of this legal action, including the time, date and location of the hearing.
The government will be required to demonstrate two key points at the hearing:
- The taking of the owner's land via eminent domain is for a public use.
- Good faith negotiations were held with the owner in an attempt to reach a fair purchase price.
For their part, owners will be provided with an opportunity to challenge both the government's assertions and actions.
In the event the government prevails, a subsequent hearing will be held to determine the fair market value of the private land. Once this is established, however, the money may not go directly to the owner.
Instead, the money will first be used to satisfy any outstanding mortgages, encumbrances or liens on the land with the surplus, if any, going to the owner.
Whether you have been approached by the government about selling your land or receive a notice that an eminent domain hearing centered on your property is going to be held, consider contacting an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.