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What are my Rights as a Landowner in Georgia? 

            In 2006 the Georgia Legislature adopted the Landowner’s Bill of Rights and Private Property Protection Act. Included in this legislation were express procedures that condemning authorities must follow if they wish to take private property for a public use. Specifically, O.C.G.A. § 22-1-9, captioned “Policies and Practices Governing Condemnations” provides nine policies and practices to be followed by condemning authorities. This blog post will review these policies and practices so that you will be aware of them if a condemning authority approaches you about acquisition of your personal property.

            The first of these guidelines requires the condemning authority to make every reasonable effort to acquire real property expeditiously by negotiation. However, before those negotiations begin, the condemning authority must have the real property appraised and the property owned must be given an opportunity to accompany the appraiser during his or her inspection of the property. Additionally, before negotiations begin, the condemning authority must establish an amount which it believes to be just compensation and shall make a prompt offer to acquire the property for the full amount is believes it be just compensation.

            When the condemning authority makes its offer of just and adequate compensation to the property owner, the condemning authority is to provide the property owner with a written statement of the property to be acquired as well as a summary of the basis for the amount it believes to be just compensation. If there are any consequential damages they must be stated separately from the property value itself. If the property owner suggests alternative sites, the condemning authority must consider those as part of its calculation of just compensation.

            The Landowner’s Bill of Rights also mandates that property owners are not required to surrender possession of their property before the condemning authority pays the agreed purchase price or deposits the full amount of the condemning authority’s appraisal of the fair market value of such property into the court’s registry where the property owner can access it. As far as timing goes, construction or development of a project for public use is to be scheduled so that no person lawfully occupying real property would be required to move from his or her home without at least ninety (90) days’ written notice from the condemning authority of the date by which the move is required. In that same vein, if the condemning authority permits an owner or tenant to occupy the real property acquired on a rental basis for a short term or for a period subject to termination by the condemning authority on short notice, the amount of rent required cannot exceed the fair rental value of the property to a short-term occupier.

            One of the more important provisions in the Landowner’s Bill of Rights forbids the condemning authority from acting in bad faith in order to compel an agreement on the price to be paid for the property. At all times, the condemning authority is to act fairly and honestly with the property owner. Because of the seriousness of a condemnation action, the onus is placed on the condemning authority—no condemning authority can intentionally make it necessary for a property owner to institute their own legal proceedings to prove that his or her real property is being taken.

            The very last policy and procedure in the Landowner’s Bill of Rights allows a person whose interest in being acquired through condemnation to donate their property, any part thereof, any legal interest therein, or any compensation paid to a condemning authority, as such person shall determine.

If you have been contracted by a condemning authority related to a proposed or pending acquisition of your property, our firm would be happy to speak with you about your rights and expectations. We can be contacted at 770-957-3937 or at condemnation@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.