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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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 the government takes or damages your property and you can no longer continue to occupy the premises, you are entitled to additional damages on account of being displaced by the condemnation.
This is a separate administrative process and provides funds in addition to just and adequate compensation due under the Georgia Constitution. If you operate an impacted business, it is also possible to forgo the administrative process and seek damages as part of the condemnation action itself. Generally, the government must give you 90-days notice before asking you to vacate your premises.
day notice to vacate
You may be eligible to receive the actual reasonable expenses in moving yourself, your family, business, farm operation or other personal property within a reasonable distance from the condemned property. Legitimate moving expenses can include:
- Packing and unpacking
- Temporary storage costs
- Insurance costs
- Insurance costs
- Removing and reinstalling machinery
If appropriate receipts are kept, businesses may also request reimbursement for:
- Re-lettering signs
- Replacement stationary
- Connection of utilities
- Soil testing
- Marketability studies
- Impact fees
In general, certain things are not compensable relocation expenses:
- Renovation or improvement expenses of the new site
- Increased living expenses
- Loss of profits or good will
- Loss of employees
- Personal injuries
- Loss of time and expenses searching for a replacement residential dwelling
Generally, the government will also offer you a fixed price option, often called “Method A.” This is often an acceptable alternative, particularly where tracking additional expenses is impracticable or may be less than what is offered.
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.
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