Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 9, 2020

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If your property has been condemned, you will be notified in writing by a government agency. In some instances, you may also be served with a summons and complaint. If you do receive such a notice, it is important to understand that it doesn’t mean the property is being condemned because it is worthless or has deteriorated and is not up to code. Rather, the government needs the land for public use. Public uses may include construction of airports, schools, roads, parks, railroads, housing projects, and/or other public buildings.   

Understanding Condemnation

The government has the right, under the power of eminent domain, to take private property and use it for public buildings and other projects benefiting the public. But the government is required by law to offer the property owner “just compensation” for the property.  When this occurs, the government will generally either hire a condemning agency or appraisers who will come up with a fair value for the property. They will consider the value as if the property were on the market for a fair amount of time and as if any buyer of the property understood all its uses and potential, especially if those uses would increase its value.

Accepting or Rejecting an Offer

When the government makes its offer, you have the right to accept or reject it. If you reject the offer, the case will go to court. You may want to reject the offer if you think it is unnecessary for the government to take the property, or if you think the property is not going to be used for a public purpose.

In court, the government must prove that the purchase of the land is necessary and that the land is going to be used for a public project. The government must also show how the amount of the offer was determined. If you are rejecting the offer because you feel the property is worth more, you must bring in your own appraisers as well.       

You will want to call a lawyer as soon as you receive any type of notification that your property is being condemned to make sure you get fair market value for the property and that your rights are protected during the condemnation process.