If the government has condemned your property, you have legal rights. You may still be able to fight the condemnation. You could also seek additional compensation beyond what the government is offering. You should always contact an attorney to understand condemnation laws in South Carolina and your legal options. Eminent domain attorney J. Camden West at West Law Firm can help.
Differences Between Eminent Domain and Condemnation
While condemnation is similar to eminent domain, there are subtle differences between the two.
Essentially, eminent domain gives the government the right to take certain property, while condemnation is the actual process of taking the property.
The end result is the same — the government can take land for certain purposes, including for the public’s use, and they must pay you fair market value for the property.
Reasons Why the Government May Condemn Your Property
There are two primary reasons why the government may condemn your property. First, the government could condemn property once it has taken it through eminent domain. It would take possession of it through condemnation.
The government may also condemn property because it believes that the property presents a danger to the general public. The government has a responsibility to the public to police health and safety. A building may not measure up to building codes, or it may present another unsafe condition.
How the Government Condemns Your Property
The government may condemn your property at the conclusion of the eminent domain process. When the government condemns your property, it has exercised its right to take it through eminent domain.
The government would send you a letter informing you that your property is to be taken through eminent domain. They may try to privately negotiate a deal with you to transfer ownership of the property.
If the government cannot work out a deal with you, or if you refuse to accept their offer, the government would file a lawsuit.
If the government is trying to condemn property for safety reasons, it would need to provide evidence to the court that:
- The property is unsafe, unsanitary, or a public nuisance or is in a state of disrepair
- A public body issued an order for the property owner to abate the condition
- Evidence that the property or improvement is being used for illegal purposes
The court would then decide whether to condemn the property and how much the owner should be compensated.
You have legal options in a condemnation case:
- You can fight the condemnation itself, especially when the government is not condemning your property for public use
- You can demand more compensation than the government is offering you for your property
Fair Market Value for Land Condemnation
When the government condemns your property, you are entitled to be paid its fair market value.
Typically, fair market value means the highest price that a willing buyer would pay for the land.
Even if the government condemns your land for safety reasons, chances are that it still has some value.
The government will usually retain an appraiser to come up with the valuation for your property.
The number that they will come up with is often well below what your property is really worth.
If you receive a letter that informs you of a very low valuation for your property, you should not despair. You can hire your own valuation expert to provide their opinion. Then, you can fight the government in court, where a judge or jury would decide the real value of your property.
Inverse Condemnation of Property
The government does not have to expressly give you a notice that tells you that they are taking your land to be liable for compensation. The government can do things that interfere with your use and enjoyment of your property and may even render it worthless.
For example, if the government does not take your land, but builds a noisy road right past your backyard, it could be an inverse condemnation.
The government could also effectively condemn your land through its regulations. For example, you may have purchased your property when there were more permissive zoning laws in place, intending to build a structure on your land. The government could then change zoning laws in a way that keeps you from being able to derive any economic benefit from your property.
Obtaining Fair Compensation for Your Condemned Land
In many cases, the government will not offer you fair market value for your property. The government is like any other property buyer in that they will try to negotiate the price with you.
Their first offer is not necessarily their best one.
You have the right to turn down the government’s offer. If the government has taken your property and they have not adequately compensated you for it, you can fight back in court.
When the government is exercising its power of eminent domain, you can force the matter to court, where the judge would decide compensation before the government can actually condemn your land.
If the government refuses compensation in an inverse condemnation case, you can file a lawsuit. You would seek to have the court declare the government’s action a taking. Then, the court would determine how much you would deserve in compensation.
If the government has taken your property because it was viewed as a danger, you would still need to be compensated. If the government does not make an adequate offer, you can file the lawsuit in court to force the government to pay you fair market value. Even if your property posed some type of danger, it would still be worth money, and you would need to be compensated.
You Do Need to Be Afraid to Fight the Government in Court
Even if courts may give the government some latitude in condemnation cases, they will not win every single case. The government is like any other defendant, in that they are subject to a judge’s ruling.
You can hire a condemnation attorney who knows the legal process and how the government often approaches these cases.
Contact Our South Carolina Land Condemnation Lawyers Today
Attorney J. Camden West is unafraid to take on the government on behalf of his clients. You have legal rights, and The West Law Firm is committed to protecting them no matter who is trying to compromise them. To discuss your case, you can send us a message online or call us today at 843-483-8630.