If you receive a letter from a government agency advising you that they need your property for a public project, it means that the agency plans to construct a public project on your property and is going to offer to purchase it. It is known as condemnation, but it does not mean that your property is unsafe or of poor quality. The government has the right, under eminent domain, to assume the ownership of property where and when it deems necessary for public use.
However, just because you receive a purchase offer for your property does not mean that you have no options and must accept it. Here are a few ways that property owners may choose to handle a government acquisition of their property:
- Accept or Reject the Offer: You have the right to accept or reject the purchase price offered by the government. In deciding whether to accept or reject it, you have the freedom of hiring your own appraisers to assist you in the process. The government must pay the first $5,000 towards your appraisal. You have no obligation to share the results of that appraisal with the government.
- Hire a Condemnation Lawyer: If a property owner does not believe his or her property is going to be used for public use or that the purchase price is inadequate, then the owner can refuse to sell the property and the government will decide whether to file a lawsuit for eminent domain, asking the court to try the issue of property value. If the government does file a lawsuit, it is best to consult a condemnation or eminent domain attorney who understands the process and the options available to land owners. You may also want to employ an attorney when you reject an offer, no matter what your reasons, so that you get the best offer for the value of your property.
Of course, there may be other approaches and solutions that are more appropriate for your particular situation. The Lawyer Referral & Information Service offers a list of general steps associated with the condemnation process, and can also provide you with a free referral to an eminent domain lawyer in the San Diego area. Referred clients can receive up to 30 minutes of free consultation with the attorney.