Frequently Asked Questions

What is “eminent domain?”

“Eminent domain” is a right under federal and state law that grants the government, and utility and railroad companies the ability to acquire private property for public purposes. The power of eminent domain is found in the United States and Indiana Constitutions.

What is “condemnation?”

“Condemnation” is another word for “eminent domain.” And, as such, “condemnation” is the same as “eminent domain.”

Who has the power of eminent domain?

Entities that have the power of eminent domain are the United States, the State of Indiana, its agencies, cities, towns, counties, utility companies, railroad companies, airports, entities that oversee toll bridges, turnpikes and other public infrastructure, ports, universities, and schools. Entities that have the right to exercise the power of eminent domain are known as “condemning authorities,” “acquiring agencies” or “acquiring entities.”

What is a “public purpose?”

A “public purpose” is a use for the public. Examples of public purposes include highways, streets, electrical service, water and sewage services, schools, libraries, flood control, bridges, public recreation, public hospitals, and railroads. The condemning authority must state the proposed use, which must be public, in the eminent domain complaint which begins an eminent domain case.

Can I stop a condemning authority from taking my property?

While the government and other condemning authorities have the right to exercise the power of eminent domain, that right is not without limits. A condemning authority can only take private property rights for a public purpose. A condemning authority is typically not allowed to take private property to sell it to another party for a private use. Also, a condemning authority must follow certain procedures in order to acquire or take private property.

How much money should I get for my property?

The United States and Indiana Constitutions guarantee that a landowner whose private property is being taken for a public purpose must be paid “just compensation.” Prior to filing an eminent domain lawsuit, a condemning authority typically has at least one appraisal of the landowner’s property completed by a real estate appraiser to make an offer to the landowner based upon that appraisal. Sometimes more than one appraisal is required. But, even when a condemning authority makes an offer based on one or more appraisals, the landowner cannot be forced to accept the amount that the condemning authority offers to pay.

 

How is “just compensation” determined?

“Just compensation” is the fair market value of a property. Before an eminent domain lawsuit is filed, the condemning authority must make an offer to purchase the property. The condemning authority will determine the amount to offer the landowner based on a real estate appraisal, which determines, at least from one appraiser’s opinion, the total amount of just compensation to be paid to the landowner for the property that is being taken. Landowners do not always agree with this initial determination of the amount of just compensation and can present their own evidence at trial on what they believe the amount of just compensation for the taking of their property.

What does a real estate appraiser do?

A real estate appraiser is a professional who determines the fair market value of a property. Real estate appraisers are licensed and must follow certain rules when they prepare real estate appraisals.

What is “fair market value?”

Fair market value is the price paid for the property by a willing buyer, who is not being forced to buy the property, to a willing seller, who is not being forced to sell his or her property. Many different factors can impact the ultimate determination of fair market value for any property interest that a condemning authority is taking.

What do I do if the government or another condemning authority takes my property without paying for it?

If a condemning authority takes a landowner’s property without following the procedures provided by the appropriate laws, a landowner can file an action in court against the condemning authority, which is known as an “inverse condemnation” case. Certain important deadlines exist for filing an inverse condemnation case, so recognizing this type of situation and hiring an attorney quickly is critical. YLSLG’s team of attorneys have extensive experience handling inverse condemnation cases.

Why would the government or a condemning authority file a lawsuit against me?

If a condemning authority and landowner cannot agree about the amount of just compensation to be paid, the condemning authority may file a lawsuit against the landowner. If a condemnation case has been filed against you, it is important that you take action quickly because significant deadlines exist in an eminent domain case, and an experienced eminent domain attorney is the most qualified to assist you in the eminent domain lawsuit. YLSLG has a team of experienced eminent domain attorneys who can assist you with your case.

What happens in a condemnation lawsuit?

A condemnation case involves two stages.  During the first stage, which is the “objections stage,” the condemning authority’s right to take a landowner’s property is decided. If the court determines that the condemning authority has the right to take a landowner’s property, the court appoints three appraisers to decide the amount of just compensation for the property being taken.  The eminent domain case may ultimately proceed to the second stage, which is called the “damages stage.”  During the “damages stage,” the total amount of just compensation that the condemning authority must pay is decided.

What can I do to protect my rights?

Every eminent domain case is different, but important deadlines exist that must be met in order to protect your rights. The YLSLG legal team has more than 50 years combined attorney experience handling eminent domain and condemnation matters. This experience includes assisting landowners with reviewing the offers that condemning authorities to make and negotiating on their behalf before and after an eminent domain or condemnation lawsuit is filed.

Will I have to go to trial if the condemning authority files a lawsuit against me to take my property?

Many times, the landowner and condemning authority come to an agreement about the amount of just compensation before a trial occurs.  An agreement will often be reached during mediation, a legal process in which it is important to have attorneys involved who are experienced both in eminent domain and the mediation process.  However, if the parties cannot agree prior to trial, the court or a jury will decide the amount of just compensation at trial. YLSLG’s team of attorneys have handled thousands of eminent domain cases and successfully negotiated settlements for their clients and also tried cases when necessary.

What if I need to move?

If relocation is necessary as a result of a condemning authority taking your property, the costs for your move and relocation are part of the taking but are separate from the eminent domain lawsuit. Landowners who will have relocation issues resulting from a condemning authority taking of their property need attorneys who have extensive experience in the area of relocation benefits, and YLSLG’s team of attorneys have that extensive experience in the area of relocation benefits.

 

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