Bergman Dacey Goldsmith


A closer look at the condemnation process

Without eminent domain, the United States would not look as it does today. No highway system would connect us across the country, and our national parks might be smaller. Our cities would certainly not look the same.

However, as essential as the use of eminent domain can be, the laws regulating it are often both complex and controversial. It is important for California entities exercising eminent domain to understand the condemnation process, so they can avoid such controversy.

What are the elements of the condemnation process?

Eminent domain gives the government the authority to take private property for public use if it is in the public's best interest. Governments carry out this authority through the condemnation process, which involves several steps, including:

  1. Determining how much property is needed for the project and whether it is a complete or partial taking.
  2. Calculating the market value of the property to provide just compensation.
  3. Approaching the property owner to see if they will sell the property without condemnation.
  4. Pursuing legal action and condemning the property if the property owner will not sell.

It is critical to follow the proper condemnation procedure, which an experienced attorney can help entities navigate. If they do not, then there might be additional legal complications with inverse condemnation.

Inverse condemnation reverses the roles

Private property owners are not often eager to give up their property. This is why their primary concern when facing eminent domain is obtaining just compensation they have a right to. And that is also why most eminent domain disputes regard compensation. 

Compensation also has a large impact on inverse condemnation. In an inverse condemnation case, it is the property owner who pursues legal action, not the government. And they might do so if the government:

  • Does not follow proper condemnation procedure in the taking 
  • Damages the property during the taking
  • Does not pay the property owner just compensation

By moving forward with inverse condemnation, property owners often seek more compensation for the damages they suffered from the taking. 

The process of condemnation can be nearly as complex as eminent domain laws themselves. That is why it is critical for entities exercising eminent domain to consult an experienced attorney to reduce risks and avoid complex legal issues.

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