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Leveling the Eminent Domain Playing Field

Property owners typically face a steep learning curve when it comes to eminent domain. The condemning authority already has a head-start in analyzing the potential impacts and liabilities associated with a particular acquisition. It is also assisted by trained professionals. Meanwhile, most property owners are unfamiliar with the process unless they have been involved in it before. Some of the terminology used can be archaic as well. All of this can lead to a property owner feeling overwhelmed or pressured to make a quick decision with lasting implications. The good news is that help is available. Moreover, it doesn’t take very much to become relatively versed in the applicable terminology.

In a previous post, I explained the difference between the three most common types of property interests acquired. Will White also explained how a property owner can analyze the initial offer. The purpose of this post, however, is to explain some of the other terms that are commonly used in the process.

First, the term “condemnation” means the exercise of eminent domain power. It is basically interchangeable with “eminent domain.” Yet, a property owner is more likely to hear the process referred to as “condemnation.” The important thing to keep in mind is that, whatever term is used, it basically means the same thing: private property will be taken for a public purpose. As a result, the property owner is entitled to just and adequate compensation.

Second, the phrase “just and adequate compensation” means the amount of money necessary to provide the property owner with the “actual value” of its loss. While “actual value” normally means “fair market value,” the property owner is nevertheless entitled to receive compensation that reflects the “actual value” of its loss. Accordingly, the yardstick used to measure just and adequate compensation is the value of the property an owner has lost, not the value of the property a condemning authority has gained.

Third, the term “property” is very broad. It encompasses virtually anything of value. For example, it normally includes land and buildings. But, it also includes any other improvements as well, such as an existing driveway, sprinkler systems, fence, sign, etc…. Often it can also include other rights, such as the ability to enlarge a building or install a driveway, sprinkler system, fence, sign, etc… In certain circumstances, it can also include business losses.

Fourth, the term “consequential damages” is very important. Under the Georgia Constitution, property owners are entitled to compensation for any property interests that are both taken or damaged. This means that the property does not have to be actually taken in order to require payment of just and adequate compensation. Rather, any impact on the remaining property’s value that is caused by the taking may be compensable.

If you have been contacted by a condemning authority related to a proposed or pending acquisition of your property, I would be happy to speak with you about it. My contact information is 770-957-3937, or wtillery@smithwelchlaw.com.

Smith, Welch, Webb & White, LLC., is recognized as a premier law firm throughout the state of Georgia with expertise in this area of law. We have an uncompromising commitment to serving our clients and community. Our team of experts routinely handles a wide range of legal matters beyond just eminent domain, and will be happy to provide outstanding service for you, your family, or business.

Any representations regarding the law in this Blog is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog publisher. The Blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

No matter your law needs, Smith, Welch, Webb, & White is here to help. Contact us today for a free legal consultation!

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