Procedures in Condemnation Cases
Procedures in Highway Condemnation Cases
Condemnation is the action of a governmental entity when it takes private property for a public use. When a state takes private land to build, expand, or develop a public highway, that private property is condemned through a judicial process that ultimately transfers the title of the land from the private owner to the state in exchange for the payment of funds that reflect the reasonable value of the land taken. Condemnation is a statutory process, so the provisions of the applicable statutes must be followed. Each state’s laws may have particular requirements or differences, but they generally follow the same procedures.
Generally, the first thing that will happen is that the state will give the owner notice that it intends to build, expand, or develop a highway that would affect the owner’s land. This puts the owner on notice that all or part of his or her property is subject to condemnation. If the owner and the state can agree on the amount of compensation that the owner should receive for the value of the property, the property can be transferred quickly. Often, however, the owner does not agree to the amount of compensation offer.
Compensation and Value Determinations
When the parties cannot agree on the amount of compensation, the value of the property will have to be determined in a condemnation proceeding that is filed in a civil court. In that proceeding, the state asks the court to appoint a named individual or group to appraise the property and to fix a fair value. In some states, those who appraise the property are formally called “viewers” or “commissioners.” Other states are less formal. Some states also allow the owner to obtain his or her own appraisal and submit it to the court as evidence of value. To help it determine the value, the court may look at photographs and hear expert testimony as to the particular features, character, and condition of the property and the character and condition of the neighborhood and comparable properties. In the end, the court will base its decision on what is the highest and best use for the particular property under consideration.
Other Factors in Determining the Amount of Compensation
In addition to the value of the property, a land owner may recover the cost of hiring appraisers who help determine the value of the property. Owners may also be able to recover other incidental damages that are associated with the property. For instance, some state laws allow owners to recover moving expenses. If the property had been used as a business, the owner may be able to recover damages for lost good will and the cost of relocating the business and its fixtures to another suitable location.
Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.