Condemnation: Now You Own It. Now You Don’t

As you are sitting in traffic waiting for the lady or gentlemen in the reflective vest with the walkie-talkie to turn the stop sign to “slow”, have you ever wondered how the land was obtained for the road or the widening of the road? 

This thought probably does not cross everyone’s mind, but it has crossed mine lately.

I recently had to review a title search for a residential closing where the Department of Transportation had taken a portion of the front yard of the property which my buyer was purchasing.  This property was taken as part of the right of way for our city’s outer loop construction. 

The act of taking property by a governmental entity for a public use such as a road is called condemnation.  Said entity must give notice to all landowners the taking will affect and must file a complaint containing a declaration of taking.  The complaint must be filed and a deposit made for the amount of money the entity believes is just compensation.  

Like with the notice, a complaint must be given to each owner affected by the condemnation.  Upon the filing of the complaint and the deposit being made, title to the property vests and the entity is entitled to immediate possession.  That’s correct – the government can file to take your property, and your consent as the owner is not needed.  A memorandum of action for the taking must be filed with the register of deeds, putting the world on notice of the taking.

Upon receiving a notice and complaint for a condemnation action, it’s important to seek immediate legal counsel.  An owner may not be able to fight the taking, but the amount claimed as just compensation can be disputed.   

An owner and a governmental entity may have different ideas of what “just compensation” is.  If there is a disagreement upon the compensation, it may be determined by judge or jury if a settlement cannot be reached. 

Getting help from the right professionals will help an owner to make an educated decision upon getting the “just compensation” he or she deserves.  It is also important if you are buying property to have a lawyer perform a title search to see if the property you are purchasing may be affected by a taking.

If you face any legal issues with real property, contact an attorney at Hutchens Law Firm so that we can help protect your rights.

Published by Christopher T. Salyer on September 21, 2015