Just How is “Just Compensation” Determined in an Eminent Domain Proceeding?

Real Estate Law

You might not mind taking “the fifth,” but not too many people are happy when the Fifth Amendment’s Taking Clause applies to them.

As you may know, the United States Constitution prevents the government from taking private property for public use unless it pays the landowner “just compensation.”

Like the Federal Constitution, Georgia’s state Constitution guarantees that property owners will receive “just and adequate” compensation when their land is taken for public purposes.

But what, exactly is “just compensation” (or “just and adequate compensation”) and what factors go into coming up with a dollar figure in eminent domain proceedings?

In today’s post we’ll touch on the basics of this thorny and often difficult legal issue.

What Is Eminent Domain?

Eminent domain is the legal process by which the government takes your land for a public purpose—like road widening, bridge building, or public utilities—in exchange for paying you “just compensation.”

The idea is that when private property is being taken for the benefit of the general public, a private person (i.e., the landowner) should not have to bear the cost of having his property damaged or taken outright.  Instead, the property owner should be paid “just compensation,” so that he will be “made whole.” In other words, he should be paid so that he is in the same relative position as if the taking did not occur.

Generally, what this means is that the property owner is entitled to the value of the land or the amount that the property has depreciated because of the government action. How that amount is derived, is a hotly debated question in eminent domain proceedings.

Finding a “Just and Adequate Compensation” Dollar Figure

Each state has its own Constitution and laws regarding eminent domain proceedings, which is why if you are facing eminent domain proceedings, you should consult with experienced real estate counsel where you live.

In Georgia, where we practice, “just and adequate compensation” is generally a product of the market value of the real property being condemned, and the consequential damage that the taking will cause to the remaining portion of the property.

Not surprisingly, saying that does not give you a specific dollar amount. And that’s because there is a lot more to it. For example, while normally in real estate it is common to say that “land is unique,” when it comes to valuing property for condemnation proceedings in Georgia, “unique” has a very different meaning. It means that the property is so one-of-a-kind, or is so infrequently bought or sold, that it does not have a “market value.”

Sentimental value of the property to the owner is not considered. On the other hand, it does not matter how the property owner got the property. Even if the land was a gift and he paid nothing for it, he is entitled to the fair market value of the property in an eminent domain proceeding.

Many factors go into making a determination of what is “just and adequate” compensation when the government is taking your land, which is why you should consult with experienced real estate counsel if you are involved in condemnation proceedings.

Our Experience is YOUR Advantage

If the government is taking your property, don’t go it alone. Call us. We are experienced real estate counsel in Georgia. We handle all aspects of real estate transactions and litigations and we can help. We have offices in Cumming, Georgia and we serve clients in and around Atlanta, Marietta, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Kennesaw, Forsyth County, and a number of other counties in Georgia. To schedule your free phone consultation, call 770-888-7707Or you can contact us here, or send inquiries by e-mail to: lawofficesofmarkweinstein@gmail.com.

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