Discovering your property might be appropriated under the auspices of “eminent domain” can be alarming. Because the government is involved, you may wonder under what right they exercise this authority and what rights you have as the property owner.
You probably have questions. Why is this happening? Is it possible to stop the process? Who decides on compensation? Who pays the legal fees?
Here are some essential things to know about eminent domain and your rights.
In Ohio, the power to appropriate private property is decided upon by the Ohio General Assembly. It is only allowed when deemed necessary for public use. While Ohio counties, townships, and municipal corporations are the ones who typically exercise this authority, it can also be extended to other government agencies and private companies if there is a solid argument for public need. Common purposes for appropriation include power utilities, roads and highways, gas pipelines, water and sewer lines, public buildings, schools, parks, airports, railroads, and cemeteries.
The one feature that must be prominent is that the appropriation is both necessary and for a public purpose.
The Ohio Constitution and laws clarify that eminent domain can only be enacted by necessity and for public use. Before a case for appropriation can be filed in court, the entity making the appropriation must provide the property owner with a formal notice of the appropriation. They must also provide the owner with a written appraisal of the property and a good-faith offer of compensation. Before seizure can occur, the entity making a case for the eminent domain must complete negotiations with the property owner.
“Public purpose “usually covers construction that is accessible or can be used by everyone. This includes highways and roads, public buildings and utilities, schools, hospitals, parks, and travel hubs.
Property cannot be seized by eminent domain solely for private use. Similarly, eminent domain cannot be used to exclusively provide an economic or financial benefit to the government or a community. This would be considered insufficient to satisfy the public-use requirement described in the Ohio Constitution.
After the filing of the appropriation, the property owner does have the right to mount a challenge. The basis of the challenge must concern itself with whether or not the appropriation is necessary and for public use. The property owner may also object to the appropriation if the entity has not followed the proper procedure of providing notice of appropriation, an appraisal, and good faith offer.
Challenges can be exceedingly difficult to win, so it’s essential to have good legal guidance should you find yourself in this situation.
The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly states that private property cannot be seized for public use without just compensation. This applies to the State of Ohio as well.
Someone whose property is appropriated is entitled to just compensation as determined by a jury. The jury considers multiple factors such as the property’s fair market value and potential damages suffered by surrounding land and buildings not appropriated.
Fair market value is defined as the amount of money that could be obtained during a voluntary sale of the property. This describes the amount of money both purchaser and seller would be willing to agree upon when both are aware and informed of all the circumstances involving the value and use of the property.
The government entity usually takes possession of the property after a final settlement between the parties or a trial verdict. In some situations, Ohio law allows a “quick take.” This means the government entity can take possession of the owner’s property before the compensation amount is finalized—usually for highway or road construction or emergency use. The amount of money offered by the government must be deposited with the court when the suit is filed. This money is available to the property owner, even if final compensation has not been determined.
The right of a property owner to recover fees and costs is limited. If the appropriation does not go through for some reason, a court can award the attorney’s fees, expenses, and costs to the property owner. For example, should the appropriation be for roadway purposes, these costs may not be recoverable unless agricultural land is taken. In other situations, expenses might be recovered, but the circumstances and amounts may be limited.
Unraveling the variety of eminent domain issues, its limitations, costs, and fair compensation can be a lot to deal with. What are your rights? What powers does the government have, and under what conditions? How can you make the best of this situation?
Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. Qualified estate attorneys, such as Ohio’s Heban, Murphree & Lewandowski, LLC, can guide you through the eminent domain process so you are not taken advantage of.
Call our expert legal team today for more information. 419.662.3100