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What is eminent domain?

On Behalf of | Apr 21, 2024 | Real Estate

Property owners in Ohio may falsely believe that nothing can compromise their property rights, as long as they pay their taxes and their mortgages on time. While that is a comforting thought, it’s not one that’s correct. Any property owner is subject to losing their real estate if the government exercises eminent domain, which is the legal authority of government entities to seize private property for public use.

This is a critical tool for certain public projects that serve the common good, such as highways, schools or utility infrastructure improvements. Even though this may feel like a hopeless situation, property owners do have options for fighting back.

Eminent domain process

The process typically begins with the government entity identifying a public need that can’t be reasonably met without using private property. Once a property is identified for this purpose, the entity must provide the owner with a notice of intent to acquire it. This is followed by an appraisal to determine the property’s fair market value. The government must then offer to purchase the property at the appraised value.

If the property owner agrees to the terms, the sale proceeds as a normal real estate transaction. However, if the owner doesn’t agree to sell, the government entity may proceed to file a petition in court to acquire the property through eminent domain.

This action must clearly show the public purpose behind the property acquisition, and it must provide evidence that just compensation has been offered based on the fair market value. For a property to be seized under eminent domain in Ohio, the intended use must be for a public purpose. This has traditionally included projects like infrastructure, schools and public facilities.

Just compensation and disputes

Just compensation is required to be paid to the property owner, and this is generally considered to be the fair market value of the property at the time of the taking. If the property owner disagrees with the offered compensation, they can challenge the offer in court. During such proceedings, both sides can present evidence, and ultimately, the court will decide the amount of just compensation.

Property owner’s rights

Ohio law ensures that property owners are not left in the dark during eminent domain proceedings. They have the right to receive a detailed notice about the taking, to negotiate compensation, and to challenge the taking in court if they believe the public use justification is insufficient or the compensation is inadequate.

Understanding these aspects of eminent domain in Ohio is crucial for any property owner facing potential property acquisition by the government. Legal guidance is often essential in such cases to navigate the complexities of the law and to better ensure fair treatment and just compensation.