What Is Condemnation?

The legal definition of condemnation is the seizure of private property for public use. Condemnation occurs when a local, state, or federal government seizes private property and compensates the owner. Once the government decides to take the property and appraises much the property is worth, it offers the owners a pro tanto award. If the owner does not wish to sell, the government files the appropriate court action to exercise the right of eminent domain. Learn more about condemnation laws below.

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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: Jan 28, 2021

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Condemnation occurs in the U.S. when a local, state, or federal government seizes privately owned property and gives the property owners compensation. The power of the government to do this is called eminent domain, which essentially means the government takes private property for public use. The owner is entitled to just compensation for the property, but he does not have to give his approval of the sale.

What is condemnation?

Most U.S. citizens are aware that the government can seize property for things like schools, roads, railroads, and other public building projects. However, many do not know that property can be seized for private use as well. One good example of this occurs when there is a severe housing shortage. In such instances, city governments have the authority and power to take property through condemnation and use it for the purposes of building condominiums or apartments. That way, more people can be housed in the area. In other situations, if an area is considered to have deteriorated, that property can be sold under the power of eminent domain without the property owner’s approval. In either situation, the landowner has rights to just compensation for the condemned real estate.

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What is the process of condemnation and compensation?

The condemnation process in the U.S. may vary slightly depending on the situation, but in general:

  • Once the government agency has decided to take the property and has come up with a reasonable appraisal of how much the property is worth, or fair market value, it will offer the property owner a pro tanto award (a partial payment made by the government as compensation for the land being seized).
  • If the owner does not wish to sell, the government authorities file the appropriate court action to exercise the right of eminent domain.
  • A hearing will be scheduled where the government has to show that the monetary offer is reasonable compensation and the property is indeed being taken for public use.
  • During the hearing, the property owner is allowed to respond to the claims made.
  • If either of the parties is unhappy with the decision, they have legal rights to appeal the outcome.

How can you get legal help with condemnation matters and compensation?

If you have received a notice of condemnation, it is in your best interests to consult with an attorney for assistance with the legal issues in the matter as soon as possible to make sure you have a legal advocate throughout the process and receive fair compensation.

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