Eminent domain is a niche area of law that requires lawyers familiar with its unique requirements and procedures. It is the government’s power to take—condemn—property for a public use, so long as the government pays just compensation to the owner. The attorneys at Willoughby Humphrey & D’Antoni have extensive experience representing both the governmental agencies taking property as well as the private landowners whose property is being taken. We’ve worked on numerous complex acquisitions of commercial, residential, and special use properties where just compensation at issue ranged from the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.
Condemnation can take many forms. The government can acquire property outright, or it can take a more limited right in property such as an easement or right-of-way. The property might be used for highway projects, new government buildings, public works, utilities, parks, or any number of projects. And federal, state, and local governments have the power to condemn property.
Governments seeking to condemn property must follow certain procedures, including giving proper notice to the landowner, obtaining an appraisal of the property, making an offer based upon the appraisal, and undertaking reasonable and diligent efforts to negotiate a settlement. Landowners have their own obligations as well, such as allowing the government to enter the property for the purposes of making a survey, determining the location of improvements, and making an appraisal.
This process must be done right. Our condemnation & eminent domain attorneys help governments exercise their powers the right way and advise landowners if the government has not followed the right procedures.
If the government and landowner do not reach a settlement, then the government issues a condemnation notice. The parties have a right to a jury trial, and the law allows condemnation trials to take precedence over all other civil cases. The landowner may also challenge the government’s right to condemn, which will automatically place any condemnation proceedings on a temporary hold.
Litigating a condemnation case requires special skills and knowledge. We have successfully tried these cases to verdict. The trials involve complex issues including real estate valuation, zoning, permitting, engineering, and land use. We work with experienced experts across all disciplines to maximize value for landowners or prove that the government offered just compensation.
The court or the jury will determine what constitutes just compensation for the property. The government must pay interest on that amount running from the date it filed the condemnation notice. And South Carolina law allows landowners to recover their attorneys’ fees and costs in some instances. These are important considerations for both condemning governments and landowners, and we advise on how they may impact a case.
A government can take property without exercising formal eminent domain powers. This can happen when the government intrudes on, damages, or restricts access to property without issuing a condemnation notice. It can also happen when governmental regulations and ordinances impair a landowner’s use and enjoyment of property. This is known as inverse condemnation.
We have represented governments and landowners in inverse condemnation claims. In these cases, the first issue is whether the government’s action was a “taking.” If it was, then the landowner can seek compensation.
The lawyers at Willoughby Humphrey & D’Antoni can advise you in all these situations, so let us help you through the maze that this work can become.
Use the form below to contact Willoughby Humphrey & D’Antoni to see how our experience and expertise can help. Our condemnation attorneys and eminent domain attorneys are based in Columbia, SC and Charleston, SC.