Eminent Domain Damages for Georgia Property Owners
If you’re facing eminent domain, nobody would blame you for being upset.
By law, the government and some private entities (like utility companies) can take your property or property rights. For many owners, eminent domain ruins their long-term plans and dreams for those properties. It’s far more than just a piece of land, and you should pursue maximum compensation if it’s being taken from you.
When the government comes for your property, it will make an initial offer. You want fair and full compensation for both the property being taken and all the many, sometimes hidden ways that your property’s usability and worth can be damaged by eminent domain. Not only might you lose property, what remains may be forever scarred, limited, burdened, and reduced in value.
Beware! It’s unlikely the government’s initial offer accounts for all of the damages that may be appropriate in your case. And while the government’s offer is almost certainly low, the stakes for you are sky high: this is likely your only opportunity to get all the compensation you may deserve.
Eminent domain compensation: Damages you may be owed
The government wants your property for as little as possible and they are not required to tell you about all the damages you may be owed.
Below is a list of some damages you may be entitled to when your land is taken. Different and other damages may be available depending on your case, which is why both home and business owners should consult an eminent domain attorney before agreeing to anything.
Direct damages is the money you can get for the property being taken. This is where many property owners stop even though they may deserve much greater compensation.
Example: GDOT takes your front yard so they can widen the nearby road. You are likely owed compensation for the land they’re taking.
Sometimes, taking a small portion of a property can result in serious damage to the value and usability of the property that’s left behind. The “severance” of a small portion has damaged the remainder. Experience is often required to properly spot and value this type of damage. Property owners should be aware that negotiations for severance damages can be difficult and technical.
Example: A gas station at an Interstate exit is subject to a taking that eliminates its tall signage, and a new one isn’t allowed. Even though the remaining land is still able to operate as a gas station, the value of the land for such purposes may be reduced due to the lack of a sign attracting drivers from the highway.
Easements are tricky. Your property isn’t being taken, but your right to use it as you please is. Determining the value of your rights can be difficult, but your attorney can help.
Example: A classic easement example is when a utility company installs power, data, or sewer lines on your property and retains the right to access the lines whenever needed. You are losing access to part of your property and are likely entitled to compensation.
Has the government moved something closer to your home that might impact your ability to use and enjoy your property the way you used to?
Example: Let’s say the government widens a road right by your home from two lanes to four. The closer proximity of the road to your home, along with impacts like more noise and light pollution, may entitle you to compensation.
Land contaminated by government action makes your property worth less even when nothing is directly taken and may entitle you to compensation.
Example: GDOT takes a temporary construction easement to park its equipment on your land for a nearby road widening, but the leaky equipment or materials contaminate and damage the land.
Loss of landscaping or buffer
Buffers are not just aesthetics. Landscaping is vital to some properties, and losing a buffer may make a property nonconforming.
Example: GDOT takes a portion of your residential parcel, and in so doing, reduces the setback below the minimum required by the municipality. If you can’t obtain a variance to remain legal, GDOT may owe you compensation for a complete taking.
Division or bifurcation
What if GDOT decides it needs the middle of your property? This kind of taking can trigger several complications and do tremendous damage to the remaining property and its value.
Example: A piece of a family farm is taken for a new Interstate connector, but the road crosses between the farmhouse and barn and the actual cultivated land – making it impossible to reach the other side of your property without going miles out of the way.
Some easements or changes can stigmatize a property, reducing its value. You may be owed compensation for this loss in value.
Example: The power company takes an easement on the property behind a home and installs large, high-tension power lines. Both the easement itself and the presence of high-tension lines can often drive off some buyers, so the property’s value is likely damaged beyond the physical easement itself.
Remember! It is highly advisable to seek all possible compensation before you sign any agreement, as it is likely your only chance to negotiate for more. Consult with a skilled, experienced eminent domain attorney for help.
If a temporary or permanent taking causes loss of income for a business, that may be compensable. This can happen with full or partial takings, or even with easements.
Example: A quick-service restaurant suffers the loss of just a few feet on one side of its parcel – but those few feet were its drive-thru lane. Without it, the restaurant’s business suffers, and the parcel’s value may plummet.
If a full or partial taking requires you to relocate, you may be entitled to compensation for relocation expenses.
Example: A local restaurant must relocate due to its parcel being taken. Costly kitchen fixtures and equipment must be moved – but the restaurant can seek compensation for its moving expenses.
Loss of parking
When a business loses parking, it often becomes less attractive to customers simply for the lack of convenience. Also, certain zoning rules require a minimum number of parking spaces to operate a business on that parcel.
If the taking by the government puts your business under that threshold requirement for parking spaces and your business is unable to obtain a waiver, you may be unable to continue to operate your business at that location. Not only will the business be affected, but the value of the land could be drastically reduced, as well.
Example: A busy barber shop with only ten parking spaces loses half of its parking to eminent domain. This may be compensable.
Loss or reduction of access
This broad damage type refers to the decrease in property value due to decreased or altered access to the property. How you enter and exit a property may make an enormous difference in its usability, safety, and value.
Example: A restaurant might suffer if the turning lane to their business has its elevation altered, making it inconvenient for customers and impossible for large trucks. If your business has to close because delivery trucks can no longer enter, the government may owe you significant compensation.
Business owners: Getting just compensation for eminent domain damages
Even if you’re an experienced negotiator as a business owner, you should seek the help of an eminent domain attorney. Eminent domain is likely different from any property issue you’ve ever encountered.
For example, you’re not entitled to compensation for buildings on the land, just the land itself, and asking for building compensation can harm your case. Get a free case evaluation from a dedicated condemnation attorney before you agree to anything.
Free case evaluation – Experienced eminent domain attorney
You deserve just compensation for all the harms and losses you’re being subjected to by eminent domain, and we know how to help you.
Four of our attorneys used to work for a state DOT, so we know how the Department of Transportation operates. Since we’ve been in business, we’ve helped our clients increase their initial offers on average by over 3x more!1
We can draw on our network of professionals as needed to build your case for maximum compensation, such as appraisers, engineers, environmental scientists, land planners, and more. We advance all these costs while you pay nothing upfront – and nothing at all if we don’t increase the government’s offer.2