Eminent domain is a complicated area of South Carolina law that deals with the government’s right to acquire private property for what is determined to be a public purpose. Before doing so, however, the government must choose to proceed via a trial, which is the typical mechanism employed, or by way of an appraisal panel’s decision, which either side can appeal at trial.
If you are facing an eminent domain concern, you need the professional legal guidance of an experienced Moncks Corner eminent domain lawyer on your side.
Landowners’ Rights in South Carolina
In South Carolina, landowners are afforded additional rights that they wouldn’t have in many other states. For example, if you go to court regarding eminent domain and prevail, you can seek compensation for your legal expenses.
Further, courts in the state are restricted by the narrow interpretation of the public purpose doctrine employed in terms of their ability to condemn publicly owned property.
Landowners in South Carolina can halt eminent domain actions against them through a separate legal action known as the right to take challenge.
Who Can Exercise Eminent Domain in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, the following can exercise the power of eminent domain:
- The state itself
- State agencies
- Certain utilities and other state-related entities
- Local municipalities
South Carolina’s state constitution allows it to condemn private properties, but other entities may only do so when they are authorized by state law.
Legal Requirements to Seize Property
Authorities in South Carolina can only take a property when it is deemed to be for public use, which means that the public will ultimately enjoy a definite and fixed use of the property in question.
There are also a set of procedural requirements that must be met, including:
- Providing an appraisal of the property
- Making an offer
- Making a reasonable and diligent effort to negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement in relation to the amount of compensation the property owner receives
Ultimately, the public purpose in question must be clearly defined and must actually benefit the public at large. The kinds of things that tend to qualify include land that is used to create utility easements or to improve public roadways.
Challenging the Right to Condemn
In specific situations, a landowner can challenge the condemning authority’s right to condemn. This challenge to the governmental entity’s right must be instigated through a separate legal action against the condemner within 30 days of being served with the condemnation notice.
Upon filing this challenge, the state automatically stays the eminent domain proceeding until the matter is resolved. If the property owner prevails, they may be awarded their reasonable related litigation costs, including all the following that apply:
- Attorney fees
- Expert fees
- The cost of depositions
- Any additional expenses related to the trial
If the property owner is determined to have proceeded with the action in bad faith, they can be required to repay the condemner for its reasonable legal costs.
Determining Just Compensation for Seized Property
In the State of South Carolina, landowners who are deprived of property are entitled to compensation that reaches the value of that property, which is typically called its fair market value — as adjusted for any hit in value or increase in value that the property owner’s remaining land experiences in relation to the public project in question.
The date that the fair market value of a property is calculated is the date that the condemnation notice was filed.
Fair market value is typically defined as the amount that would exchange hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller if neither was compelled to buy or sell. Even if the property is not being used in the manner that would bring its highest value, this is the amount employed to calculate its fair market value.
When the Remaining Property Loses Value
When part of a property is taken away for a public purpose, such as a road, the remaining property can lose a significant amount of value. For example, if the property has diminished access to a road or is limited in the ways it can be used or developed after the eminent domain action, the property owner can seek compensation for this loss.
However, it is important to note that losses in terms of a business’s profits cannot be compensated in South Carolina.
Request the Help of a Moncks Corner Eminent Domain Lawyer
West Law Firm Personal Injury Lawyers in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, is a family firm, and we take pride in our strong ties to the community stretching back several generations to 1945.
J. Camden West is our distinguished eminent domain lawyer, and he pours his impressive experience and legal insight into every case he tackles. If you’re facing a legal concern related to eminent domain, we are standing by to help. Reach out online or call us at 843-483-8630 for more information today.
Eminent Domain FAQs
Do I need an eminent domain lawyer?
Eminent domain actions are exceptionally challenging, and the surest means of retaining your property or obtaining compensation that fairly covers the property’s actual value is with a dedicated eminent domain lawyer in your corner.
What if my remaining property is decreased in value?
If you lose part of a property to eminent domain, the remaining property could take a hit in terms of its value and usefulness. As such, you can include this financial loss in your calculation of your property’s fair market value.
How can I fight the government?
The state does not have an overarching right to take your property and can only do so if there is verifiable public purpose. Typically, this means for a purpose such as improving safety and traffic flow by building out a road. If the government can establish a public purpose, it is required to compensate you for your loss with the property’s fair market value. If you’re facing an eminent domain action, you’re not alone — a seasoned eminent domain lawyer can help.