What is just compensation in an eminent domain proceeding?

On Behalf of | Jun 24, 2024 | Eminent Domain |

Eminent domain occurs when the government takes a piece of private land for public use. While you have the right to defend yourself against an eminent domain proceeding, you may also choose to accept the compensation offered to you by the government for giving up your land.

The law states that the government must pay a property owner “just compensation” in a public domain proceeding. The goal of just compensation is to put you, the property owner, back in the same position they were in before the sale took place or to make you “whole” again.

But what exactly is just compensation? According to Ohio law, just compensation is the fair market value of your property. Fair market value is generally how much you could receive if you voluntarily sold your property.

Determining fair market value

Fair market value assumes that both buyer and seller have fully disclosed everything about the property and sale and are voluntarily completing the transaction. Some factors involved in determining fair market value include the location, condition and surrounding area of the property.

The use of expert witnesses is common when deciding fair market value. To make the situation more complicated, there are a few different methods for property valuations. The best method depends on the unique factors of your property and situation.

In addition to fair market value, just compensation could include the amount the property depreciates because of the government’s action and/or compensation for the best use you could have made of the property.

Just compensation does not include moving expenses or compensation for the time lost due to having to uproot your life and move. Emotional distress or feelings of loss you experience for losing your home are also not part of just compensation.

Although the law defines what does and does not qualify as just compensation, valuing property to determine just compensation is often complex and usually a point of dispute in eminent domain proceedings.

You can negotiate just compensation

You are not obligated to accept the government’s first offer for just compensation. It sometimes does not equal fair market value.

There are various arguments the government can try to use to get you to accept less than you could. They might use any improvements you made to the property to argue that they should be deducted from the compensation.

Another tactic the government uses is to call it a partial rather than a full taking of your property. They could try telling you that you can continue to use part of the land for your own use. However, this is rarely a desirable or realistic solution.

The government is legally required to provide you with notice before initiating an eminent domain proceeding. If you receive this notice and are at risk of losing your property due to eminent domain, you may feel confused, angry, scared and overwhelmed.

It can be difficult to impossible to understand the eminent domain process when you are feeling this way. Remember that you are the property owner and you have rights that you can exercise.

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