When you lose your property due to an eminent domain purchase, it is crucial to get a fair price. Yet, what you consider a fair price, and what the developer thinks is a fair price can often be oceans apart.
Eminent domain law stipulates the purchaser must pay you “just compensation” for your property. Understanding how the law defines that is essential to getting the deal you need.
What is just compensation?
Agreeing a price for your property will be challenging. To the developer, it may be a worthless scrap of farmland that will decrease in value as water becomes more scarce. To you, it may represent generations of hard work and memories.
The same can happen with urban properties. Developers may argue their purchase permits you to move to a new location with better facilities. You may see it as an attempt to destroy your community and separate you from those you trust and rely on.
The basis of a valuation is the fair market value. In other words, what you could get if you put the property up for sale. You can also claim for improvements you made to the land. For instance, if your grandfather planted native trees, they may now be mature, making your land worth more than your neighbors that have no trees.
Sometimes eminent domain buyers only want a part of your property. If developers are building a new highway, they may argue you get better access, increasing the value of the rest of your property. They may use this to drive down their offer.
You need to counter why you need more to compensate for the damage they are doing to the remaining piece of land. Your relaxing weekend retreat will be less enjoyable with a six-lane highway running yards from it.
Getting adequate compensation for land someone wishes to take through eminent domain laws can feel overwhelming when you are up against the government or a prominent developer. Having the right legal team on your side will help you feel a little less alone and increase your chance of success.