Your world can be turned upside down in a moment if you get a notice in the mail saying your land is being condemned. Thanks to a legal concept known as "eminent domain," state and federal government municipalities have a right to actually take private land for public use, provided the owner of the property is given fair compensation (a power they first exercised in 1876). But "fair compensation" is always a sticking point, with many people feeling like the government's offer on their land isn't sufficient.
If you get a valuation for your land you feel isn't fair, you might think there's nothing you can do. But remember that you have rights! There are actually several steps that may help you get a better offer.
- Do Not Sign Anything. If you sign any legal documentation around your condemnation, you may limit yourself to the amount of money that's being offered. If you plan on fighting the offer, it's important to not put your name on anything. Instead, keep any letters that you receive so you can show them to an attorney.
- Keep Maintaining Your Property. If you get a notice your land is being taken, your first inclination may be to just let it fall into poor shape. After all, it's just going to be taken away, right? But if you want to fight your valuation, keeping your property in good shape will give you a much better chance of getting a higher valuation. If you try to get a higher valuation, there will be further appraisals, so make sure your property is looking its best.
- Be Aware of Time Limits. Once you get a notice that your land is being condemned, you have a specific amount of time to take legal action. This limit actually varies from state to state and on what entity is condemning your land. Your condemnation notice, sometimes called a condemnation complaint, should give you this information. It's important to be aware of this deadline because you may have legal options before that point, but after that point, you probably have no options.
If you get a notice that your land is being condemned, you might think you should contact a political representative or the specific body that's conducting the claim. 44 states do have laws that protect landowners in a situation like this. But instead, your first contact should be for legal help. Contacting a condemnation lawyer experienced with eminent domain will not only make the entire process easier, but it will also give you a better chance at actually getting a fair offer.Share