What is Eminent Domain?
Eminent domain is the power the government has to take private property for public use. To do so, the government must provide the owner of the property with just compensation. The government uses eminent domain for things like transportation infrastructure, government buildings, and even private developments that contribute to the good of the community.
What is an Eminent Domain Lawyer?
While the government has the power to force a property owner to sell, it must do so with a warning and with a fair offer. Property owners have some rights in this process, and eminent domain lawyers represent them and their interests.
What Do Eminent Domain Lawyers Do?
Eminent domain lawyers represent property owners. When the government begins eminent domain against a private owner, the owner does not have to simply accept the offer. They can request more or even challenge the government’s taking. Eminent domain lawyers assist clients in these challenges.
They can also help property owners fight the government in similar situations, such as an inverse condemnation or regulatory taking. An inverse condemnation is when a property owner fights back against the government’s encroachment on or use of their property without going through the process of eminent domain.
A case of regulatory taking occurs when the government’s use of property significantly devalues the property of a private owner. In these cases, the owner can hire an eminent domain lawyer to fight back against the government.
When Do I Need an Eminent Domain Lawyer?
You are never required to have a lawyer help you if you find yourself in the middle of an eminent domain case. You can take the government’s offer. If you want to challenge the offer, request more compensation, or request the government’s case entirely, you need a lawyer who specializes in these cases.
Challenging eminent domain means going through a process called condemnation. It can get complicated. It’s best to have someone with experience going up against the government to represent you and your interests.
Why Hire an Eminent Domain Lawyer?
At no point during the process of eminent domain, even if you challenge the government, are you required to have a lawyer. There are several compelling reasons to hire an eminent domain attorney as soon as the government knocks on your door:
- They can explain your rights.
Many people assume the government can simply take their property and pay what it wants. The truth is that property owners have rights in this process. A lawyer can explain them to you and make sure the government does not violate them.
- A lawyer will get fair compensation.
The government must pay you just compensation, but that doesn’t mean it will be fair. The government will try to pay you as little as possible. An eminent domain lawyer has a much better chance of getting you a higher amount for your property than you could on your own.
- They will navigate the process for you.
Eminent domain can get very complicated. You may think you have a straightforward case or a simple challenge, but you don’t know all the ways your case can derail. A lawyer will be able to navigate the system for you, representing your best interests throughout.
- A lawyer knows how to make your case.
Challenging eminent domain isn’t easy. You may feel you have a strong case, but that doesn’t mean you can prove it in court. A lawyer with experience in eminent domain can build your case with the right evidence and arguments to give you the best chance of winning.
How to Choose an Eminent Domain Lawyer
This is a highly specialized area of the law. Most lawyers don’t have experience with eminent domain. Look for a firm or an attorney with this specific area of professional expertise. They will know the laws in your state and how to handle your case.
Line up a few attorneys or firms that handle eminent domain and request interviews to ask important questions:
- How long have you been working in eminent domain?
- How much of your practice is devoted to eminent domain?
- How many cases of eminent domain have you taken to court?
- What were the outcomes?
- Can you refer me to past clients who were satisfied with the outcome?
- Have you handled a case similar to mine?
- Do you see any major hurdles in my case?
- How long do you think it will take?
- What are your fees, and do you charge on contingency?
The right lawyer for you will have relevant experience, plenty of expertise in eminent domain, and the time and resources to devote to your case. They should be communicative, keeping you up to date regularly, and easy to contact.
An eminent domain challenge can be complicated and lengthy. Don’t try to take on the government alone. You’ll have a much better chance at a good outcome if you rely on the services of an experienced eminent domain lawyer.