When the government, federal or state, comes in and damages your property or takes over your property for some public interest, you should be compensated fairly. But if the government doesn’t take the necessary steps to acquire your property, including offering you fair compensation, this action is known as inverse condemnation.
Inverse condemnation can be tricky because unless damage has been done to your property, government entities can claim they haven’t actually taken ownership of your property, which may be the case. But often, they’ve interfered with your ability to fully enjoy your ownership of the property so much that the government entity has effectively taken your property. If the government’s action is compounded by the fact that you were not fairly compensated, you can file a claim for inverse condemnation.
For example, a public electric utility company takes a portion of your property to build power lines on it. You can’t use that part of your property as you wish, and they’ve damaged your property by drilling holes into the ground on it. The government also hasn’t adequately compensated you for their acquisition of your property. You could pursue compensation by filing an inverse condemnation claim for the damages done to your property.
What Is Eminent Domain?
When the federal or state government takes your privately-owned property because they have a right to it, and the government can claim that their ownership of it would benefit the public in some way, it’s known as an eminent domain action. The government has the power to acquire privately-owned property for certain public needs under eminent domain.
You may have heard of eminent domain actions occurring in border states, for example, where the government has claimed land and property owned by citizens to build border security facilities or border enforcement infrastructure. Eminent domain is also known as direct condemnation. The government may acquire someone’s property to have a railroad constructed, for example.
What Is the Process for the Government Taking Someone’s Property?
After a government entity has decided that their project will require the acquisition of your property, they have to notify you of their intent to acquire your property and what they intend to use your property for. They’ll need to do an appraisal of your property to determine its market value and should allow you to attend any appraisal inspection.
The appraisal should be conducted by an independent third party to prevent any potential for bias when evaluating the property’s value. The government entity will then make you an offer based on the appraiser’s estimation of the value of your property.
If you agree to the government’s offer for compensation, then the government entity will compensate you and continue with their acquisition of the property.
If you don’t accept the government’s offer, then the government entity can request that the appropriate government legislative entity permit them to file a court action under eminent domain to have your property taken. At this hearing, called a “Resolution of Necessity,” and of which you’ll be notified, you can make your voice heard and have your objections entered into the record. If you can’t attend the hearing, you can object in writing as long as you do so within 15 days of receiving notice of the hearing.
The government entity can then file its action in court. During a trial, a judge or jury will determine the amount of compensation you should be owed by the government entity. If you file a lawsuit objecting to the government’s taking of your property, a judge will determine whether the government has eminent domain powers over your property.
Contact a California Real Estate Lawyer
Our real estate lawyers in California can help you pursue legal action if the government has taken your property without adequately compensating you for your loss or has given you notice that it intends to take your property. Call us right away at 415-985-2111 or 530-830-6776.