Atlanta Eminent Domain Lawyers

Eminent Domain

Property owners are often shocked and angered to learn the government can take their land for public use or limit their rights to use their land. Eminent domain has always been a controversial government right because it limits property rights. In reality, your property rights are not 100% absolute, but they are protected by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Georgia Constitution, and other laws that require due process and the payment of just compensation before your property can be taken by the government. Our Georgia Eminent Domain Lawyers can help you secure due process and just compensation, and secure all of your legal rights, should the government take or threaten to take your property.

Georgia Eminent Domain Law

Even though the State of Georgia has taken numerous steps to restrict the government’s ability to take your property, it is still legally possible for the government to decide that it needs to acquire your property. The main reason why the government could take your property is for public use. For example, the government could try to exercise its eminent domain powers when your property is needed for:

  • Highway Construction
  • Mass Transit (MARTA widely used the power of eminent domain when expanding the rail network to the airport and throughout Atlanta)
  • Bridge Construction
  • School Construction
  • Electric, gas, water, sewer or other public utilities
  • Other Public Works Projects
  • Stadium Construction
  • Economic Redevelopment

The taking of private land for certain purposes (such as stadium construction or economic redevelopment) has been extremely controversial. However, the United States Supreme Court has previously ruled in favor of the taking of private property for public purposes.

When the Government Can Take Your Property

There are three core requirements that must be met in order for the government to legally take all or part of your property:

  • The taking must be for a public use
  • The government must pay fair market value for your property
  • Your property cannot be taken from you without due process

Due process means that you have the right to be heard and treated fairly. While the government has significant power, you can challenge the taking itself and/or the compensation the government is offering. In other words, the law requires that you are treated fairly and get your day in court to fight for your property rights. Our eminent domain lawyers will work for you, ensure you are heard and treated fairly, and we will fight for you to maintain your property ownership or be awarded just compensation for the taking of your property.

In reality, our eminent domain lawyers will advise you it is not easy to completely stop the condemnation of your land. Courts have historically given the government plenty of legal room for the use of its condemnation power. However, there have been instances in which courts have stopped the government from overreaching and taking property without a valid public purpose or without providing property owners due process. The government may not have supplied you with information about how it valued your property, or the government may not have negotiated in good faith, or even possibly taken your property without a valid public purpose.

Getting Fair Compensation for the Value of Your Property

More often, the dispute between you and the government will come down to money. The government may be offering you less than the fair market value of  your property. It cannot do that. You must receive fair market value for your property, with the amount based on:

  • Comparable property sales in the area
  • The income that you could have earned from the property
  • The cost of reproducing the house, office, or other improvements on your land

You can negotiate compensation with the government. If you are not offered enough money, you can have a jury decide how much money you should get.

In condemnation actions, the government sometimes takes all of your property, “a total taking,” but typically condemning authorities acquire only a portion or a strip of your property (“a strip taking”), not the entire property.  However, even if the government only takes a strip of your property, that can limit the use of your remaining property and cause significant damages, possibly rendering your remaining property worthless or unusable or even destroying your business on the property. In these situations, you can challenge the government’s action, or the compensation it has offered for the taking and your damages.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there compensation with eminent domain?

If the government takes private property, it must pay the landowner just compensation. The government must put the landowner in the same position financially as if the eminent domain taking never happened.

When can the Government take private land?

The government is allowed to take private land and use it for public purposes under certain circumstances. Some allowable uses of the eminent domain power could include transportation projects, utility projects, and economic development. The government has broad power, but it is not unlimited.

What happens if you refuse eminent domain?

If you do not agree to sell your property to the government, the government will initiate litigation to condemn your property. The court will then determine whether the government can take your property and how much it has to pay you.

Can I prevent my property from being taken through eminent domain?

Eminent domain lawyers can defend you in court when the government attempts to take your property and initiates litigation against you. The main ways to prevent your property from being taken are by (1) showing that the proposed use of the property is not a public use, (2) showing the government does not really need to take your property, or (3) showing that the government has acted in bad faith or violated your due process rights in taking your property.

How do I fight eminent domain?

You have legal rights when the government is trying to take your property. You should contact a Georgia Eminent Domain Lawyer to learn what you can do. While it will likely be a difficult fight, you can win when you hire experienced lawyers who can demonstrate that the government is overstepping its bounds or not offering just compensation.

Atlanta, GA Eminent Domain Attorney

As Georgia and Metro Atlanta continue to grow by leaps and bounds and the population shifts, we expect there will be a growing use of condemnation powers by the government. Our eminent domain lawyers will fight for your legal rights when the government is infringing upon them. We can represent you both in negotiating with the government and in litigation if needed. Call the eminent domain lawyers at the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein, PC today at (770) 888-7707 or contact us online to discuss your legal matter and to protect your property rights.