Visit our website dedicated exclusively to Eminent Domain/Condemnation at Arkansas Eminent Domain Law.
What is eminent domain?
Eminent domain is the inherent power of the government to take private property for the use and benefit of the public. The Arkansas and United States Constitutions and laws provide that just and adequate compensation be paid to someone whose property is needed for public use. The compensation to which a person is entitled is based on the value of the property taken and the diminution in value of the remaining property, if any, caused by the taking. An occupant may be entitled to additional compensation such as relocation assistance for residential or commercial properties that are no longer suitable for their use.
What is just compensation?
“Just Compensation” can be defined as the difference in the fair market value of the property as a whole immediately before the taking and the fair market value of the remaining property immediately after the taking.
What is the fair market value?
“Fair Market Value” can be defined as the price that your property would bring on the open market in a sale between a reasonable seller, who is willing to sell, and a reasonable buyer, who is willing and able to buy, after a reasonable opportunity for negotiation.
How much money am I entitled to?
There is no specific or standard amount of money that you are entitled to when your land is condemned because each and every case is different. However, the Arkansas constitution regards property ownership in Arkansas as the highest constitutionally protected right. Arkansas Constitution, Art. 2, § 22. Private property owners are entitled to receive just compensation when their land is acquired for public use. The measure of just compensation is the market value of the property at the time of the taking.
Can I stop the government from taking my land?
Yes and No. There are some instances where you can object to the taking of your land by the government. However, in general, as long as the government can present a sufficient “public use” they will be able to take your land by eminent domain or condemnation.
Do I have to accept what the government offers for my land?
Absolutely not. In Arkansas, you can dispute the amount of “just compensation” that the government offers for your land. If you cannot reach an agreement with the government, you are entitled to a jury trial on the amount of just compensation to which you are entitled. In addition, in order to gain title to your land, the government or the condemning authority must place a deposit of “just compensation” into the Registry of the Court to obtain title to your land. You can immediately withdraw that sum from the Registry and still have a jury trial.
The offer I received from the government is close to what I think my land is worth. What should I do?
Landowners generally have an opinion as to what they believe their land is worth, but they do not know for sure. This is especially true when your land is subject to a taking by the government. Your local real estate professional or housing appraiser (with some exceptions) is not qualified to offer a supported opinion of value as to your property when it is subject to a condemnation. Your appraiser must be familiar with the applicable standards of valuation and law before a qualified opinion may be offered. When your property is taken by eminent domain or condemnation, you only have one opportunity to receive the compensation you deserve. You should always visit with a qualified eminent domain lawyer and a qualified condemnation appraiser BEFORE you accept any offer from the government.
What happens if the government only takes part of my land?
Where only a part of a tract of your land is taken by the government, the measure of damages (“just compensation”) is the difference between the market value of the entire tract immediately prior to the taking and the market value of the remainder immediately after the taking. In determining the value of the landowner’s remaining property after the taking, the jury may consider the benefits or increases in value that may arise from the project, as well as any damages to your property as a result of the taking.
How do I know if the government’s offer is too low?
Typically this decision is made evaluating factual information, gathered by asking tough questions. Here are seven typical questions used to determine whether an offer complies with the “good faith” requirement of the law – questions the government or condemning authority might prefer to avoid:
- Does the offer reflect the true market value of the property being taken?
- Does the offer also include the market value of improvements made to the property?
- Does the offer compensate you for damages or losses that may impact the remaining property? This may include, but is not limited to, dividing your property, loss of access, loss of desirability, and increased noise exposure.
- Does your business qualify for damages, and are those damages included in the offer?
- Are you being compensated for relocation expenses?
- What are the hidden issues of access, drainage, infrastructure or engineering that may go along with the project, and are you being compensated accordingly?
- Will you be required to “cure” problems on your property as a result of a project, and if so, are you being compensated for those measures?
Remember that anything you say or write to the government or condemning authority can be used against you later. That’s why we recommend that you use an eminent domain lawyer once you know that your land is subject to an eminent domain taking.
Why should I hire Moffitt & Phillips, PLLC?
Even before a condemnation begins, a governmental entity will typically assemble its army of lawyers, engineers, real estate appraisers, planners, accountants and consultants. By the time you find out that your property has been targeted, months or years of preparation may have already concluded. At Moffitt & Phillips, PLLC, we are dedicated to protecting your rights and obtaining the just compensation guaranteed to you by the law. On any case, we have at a minimum two attorneys dedicated to protecting your rights and interests. Additionally, Moffitt & Phillips, PLLC takes most eminent domain matters on a contingent fee basis. Thus, you have no up-front legal fees. We are paid based solely on our performance ensuring that you receive the amount of compensation you deserve.
What should I do if I have other questions?
Please contact Moffitt & Phillips at (501) 255-7406 or email us at email@example.com to schedule a free consultation.