Eminent domain is the government’s right to seize private property for public use in exchange for compensating the property owner. This process is also known as “condemnation.” Property owners aren’t always able to stop the government from seizing their land, but they do have the right to challenge an eminent domain claim and to demand just compensation for their seized land.
Eminent Domain in Georgia Defined
The practice of eminent domain involves “condemning authorities” taking private property for “public use.” A condemning authority may include:
- Federal or state government
- Governmental agencies (such as the Department of Transportation)
- Public utility companies
What is “public use” in the area of eminent domain in Georgia. “Public use” pertains to private land taken for projects that benefit the general public, such as:
- Public roads, highways, and other infrastructure
- Public schools
- Conservation land
The government may also apply the concept of eminent domain to be applicable to private companies providing:
- Public works dams
- Other utilities.
Eminent Domain Lawsuit Process
If you have been contacted by a condemning authority in Georgia about seizing your property, you can expect the following process to take place:
Notice and Offer
Before filing an eminent domain lawsuit, the government authority or utility company must contact you with their intent to seize your land and give their offer for a settlement. The owner has 30 days to respond to this offer before the condemning authority can file a lawsuit. In the case of a condemned business, the business owner has 180 days to respond and request special business damages. You need to immediately contact an eminent domain attorney.
Eminent Domain Lawsuit
If you do not respond within 30 days, or if you reject their written offer, the condemning authority will respond with an eminent domain lawsuit to seize your land. This involves an “order of taking,” which requires a judge to decide whether the government authority or utility company has the right to take your property by eminent domain. More often than not, the condemning authority will receive the title to your property.
At this stage of the eminent domain process, you and your Georgia eminent domain attorney can begin negotiating for a fair settlement. As the plaintiff, you are well within your rights by exercising the option of using a neutral mediator to come to a fair settlement agreement. You do not, however, have to accept a settlement offer made by the defendant.
If you are not satisfied with what you are being offered during negotiations, you have the option of a jury trial. Our eminent domain and condemnation attorneys have extensive courtroom experience and will fight for the full compensation you are entitled to under Georgia law.
The process of an eminent domain case is complex and arduous. That’s why it is probably one of your best decisions to contact an eminent domain attorney from the first contact your receive from the government to ensure your best interests are being represented every step of the way.
What is Just Compensation?
The law states that you are entitled to the difference between the fair market value of your property before and after the eminent domain taking while considering all of the impacts from the taking. The result of this formula is called just compensation. However, the government or utility companies will try to fit just compensation into a set formula that ultimately is not in your best interest as the landowner.
Are You Affected by Eminent Domain in Georgia
If you’re affected by eminent domain, you should have a free consultation with us so that you know and understand your rights before taking any action. Remember, the government is like any buyer, they will want to purchase your property as cheaply as possible, and their appraisers may neglect to consider damages that can lead to a larger amount of just compensation.