How the Government Values Land in Condemnation Cases
Those who own property in Alabama should be aware that local and state governments, as well as the federal government, have the legal authority to take your land for public use. The government’s inherent power to take your property is called eminent domain, and the legal process itself is known as condemnation. While the government does have the right to take your property, it is also obligated to pay you “just compensation.” When you receive a condemnation letter informing you of the government’s intent to take your property, it will include a specific dollar amount of compensation that they will offer you. It’s worth taking some time to understand where this value comes from and what you can do as a property owner to receive more money.
A typical condemnation letter will state that the value of your property was arrived at by an independent appraiser, and that they made intentional efforts to create a fair offer. More specifics are rarely given, so the letter remains pretty vague in how the compensation amount was actually calculated. Additionally, the language surrounding compensation can seem fairly aggressive or forceful, as if property owners have no choice but to accept this initial offer. As soon as you receive a condemnation notice, it’s a good idea to contact an experienced attorney who can help you.
Defining “Just Compensation”
By law, the government must provide you with “just compensation” in exchange for taking your property. But what exactly does this mean? Like any other business or agency, the government aims to keep costs down, so the initial offer is typically very low. Usually, the independent appraiser will estimate the market value of your property based on its current use. However, condemnation law requires that the appraisal and offer be based on the “highest and best use” of your property. The failure to follow this legal requirement is a favored method of governments attempting to keep their acquisition costs down. Just compensation also requires the government to pay you for devaluation of your remaining property that is not taken. That is often a significant amount of money omitted from the government’s offer to purchase. That is another way to suppress the amount of the offer to purchase your property. These things happen all the time.
Going Beyond Market Value
Unfortunately, many Alabama landowners do not realize that they can push back and negotiate for more money. When you receive a condemnation letter, reach out to an attorney experienced in condemnation who can help you obtain the amount you are entitled to receive. Together, you can make sure that the government pays you what you that amount, which is often a lot more than the initial offer.
To learn more about your rights as a property owner in Alabama, reach out to the dedicated legal team at Sewell Sewell Beard LLC at (205) 544-2350.
No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.