The Dream

It took years to fulfill your dream of owning a horse farm and boarding operation. Now, not only is it a source of important rental income to you but an irreplaceable financial investment that will allow you to retire comfortably in the distant future.

Thanks to your creative energy and hard work, you’re able to do what you love: taking care of horses, meeting people who share your own enthusiasm for these beautiful creatures, and enjoying the great outdoors. When you wake up in the morning thinking of all the things you need to do that day, it fills you with a sense of purpose, pride, and accomplishment.

The Nightmare

When you first purchased the land for your horse farm it was located in a quiet rural area, surrounded by farms and other agricultural uses. But now, the open space across from you has been zoned for mixed uses and there are other plans for dense development nearby.

Soon, the County says it needs to improve and widen the roads to take care of all the anticipated traffic. And just when you are thinking about these changes and wondering what they mean, you receive news that is your worst nightmare. In order to construct the necessary road improvements, the property that means the world to you will be taken.

The County uses the term “eminent domain.” And suddenly, these two unfamiliar words are all you can think about.

What is Eminent Domain?

Eminent Domain – also referred to as “condemnation” – is the power of local, state, or federal government agencies to take private property for public use provided the owner is paid just compensation. The power is most commonly used to take property for roads, highways, schools, public buildings, and public utilities.

Reasons to Hire An Eminent Domain Lawyer

As they say, fighting city hall isn’t easy and eminent domain proceedings can be complicated. The eminent domain itself is a unique blend of constitutional law, statutory law, and appraisal theory.

Having an experienced and knowledgeable condemnation lawyer on your side to assist as you navigate this complex process is not only helpful, it’s essential.

Here are some reasons why:

1.   The Government Has Lawyers

Rest assured that the government eyeing your property will be represented by lawyers versed in eminent domain law. These lawyers are regularly advising the government on the best way to get what they want: your property.

If your horse property is worth fighting for, shouldn’t you have the same legal firepower on your side? If you get a condemnation notice, don’t just rollover. Call someone with the expertise to stand up and advocate for you.

2.     The Ability to Take Your Property is Not A Foregone Conclusion

Many landowners believe that they have no recourse against a government’s eminent domain power and that the only issue to be decided is how much the government must pay for the taking.

But, in truth, there are certain defenses that can be mounted. For instance, the property can only be condemned for a proper public purpose. Additionally, in some instances, an owner can challenge the need and necessity for the taking. And finally, while many government agencies have been delegated the legal power to condemn property, that is not the case with all agencies.

The important thing to understand is that you will never know if there are lawful challenges to a government assertion that it has the power of eminent domain over your property unless you consult with a lawyer experienced in eminent domain proceedings.

Think of how sorry you would be if there was a way to save your horse farm from being taken, but, through ignorance of the law, you did not seek to challenge the taking.

3.     Receiving the Full Measure of Just Compensation

Many landowners are not familiar with all the factors that drive just compensation and fair market value in an eminent domain case. As a result, they risk leaving money on the table if they decide to negotiate for themselves. Your horse farm is your most valuable asset. Shouldn’t that value be reflected in the just compensation paid to you?

Only an experienced eminent domain lawyer can advise you on such important valuation concepts as highest and best use, the reasonable probability that your property could be rezoned to a higher use, or the ability to use different appraisal approaches when dealing with special or unique property, such as a horse farm.Moreover, in situations where only part of your property is taken, almost every state allows a landowner to recover what is called severance damages. This is basically money to compensate you for the loss in the value of your remaining property. In some cases, severance damages can amount to more money than the value of the property being taken from you.

Finally, an experienced eminent domain lawyer will likely be able to recommend a top-notch appraiser to you. Having a strong and compelling appraisal to support your compensation claim is the best ammunition you can have in an eminent domain case.

No one wants to hear that the property they own and have sacrificed so much for can be taken by a government body without their consent. But if you hear such news, make sure to retain an experienced lawyer to protect and defend your valuable property rights!


About the Author
Lauren Alexander is the Content Marketing Strategist for Owners’ Counsel of America, a network of experienced eminent domain attorneys dedicated to defending the rights of private property owners across the US. OCA’s members are leading condemnation lawyers that represent landowners against local and state governments, transportation departments, utilities, energy companies, redevelopment authorities, the Federal government, and any other agency that may be armed with the power of an eminent domain.

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