Frequently Asked Questions
Can I contest the government’s right to condemn my property?
Yes. You may contest the condemning authority’s right to condemn your property. However, there are extra steps that must be taken by the landowner in order to contest the right to condemn. If you feel that you may want to contest the right to condemn, you need to either contact an attorney or immediately begin researching the issue to better understand the actions that you need to take PRIOR to the condemnation hearing. You may also contact the Office of the Ombudsman for Property Rights to discuss your rights and responsibilities in this situation.
Who decides the amount of compensation I receive for my property?
Initially, the court will appoint a group of three commissioners who are tasked with reporting the damages suffered by the landowner as a result of the taking. It is required that the commissioners be disinterested and be residents of the county in which the real estate or a part thereof is situated.
You also have the right to have just compensation ultimately determined by a jury.
Trials concerning eminent domain have unique rules of procedure. It is a good idea to research these rules or discuss the procedure with an attorneybefore any aspect of litigation begins. You may also contact the Office of the Ombudsman for Property Rights to discuss your rights and responsibilities in this situation.
If my home is well maintained, can it still be taken by the government in an effort to remove “blight?
Yes. You may have the “garden of the month,” the “yard of the year,” and the “home of the decade” and still be considered in a “blighted” area. Under the new Missouri law, each parcel of land must be considered individually as to whether each meets the relevant statutory definition of blight. However, the area will be considered blighted if the condemning authority finds a preponderance of the defined redevelopment area is blighted. This means that you may have the nicest home in the state and still be in a blighted area and therefore be subject to condemnation
What does “blighted” mean?
Does the municipal legislature have to pass an ordinance to take my home?
Usually. If the power of eminent domain is being used to cure “blight,” there will usually be ordinances concerning the blighted nature of the area and declaring the redevelopment a “public use” of the area.
Under new Missouri law, the power of eminent domain shall only be vested in governmental bodies or agencies whose governing body is elected or whose governing body is appointed by elected officials or in an urban redevelopment corporation operating pursuant to a redevelopment agreement with the municipality for a particular redevelopment area, which agreement was executed prior to or on December 31, 2006.
How will I know the government plans to take my property?
Under Missouri law, 60 days before the filing of a condemnation petition, the condemning authority must provide the owner of record of such property with a written notice concerning the intended acquisition. The substance of this notice must adhere to RSMo 523.250, the “Landowners’ Bill of Rights.”
Do I have to move out right away?
No. In Missouri, if the property taken is your principal place of residence, you will usually have 100 days from the date of the award. Also, you have to be given notice sixty days before the filing of a condemnation petition. So, in almost all cases you will have at least 160 days from the day you receive the official “notice of intent to acquire” letter from the condemning authority.
Do I have the right to hire an attorney?
Yes. You ALWAYS have the right to hire an attorney when facing the threat of eminent domain. In certain cases you may even be entitled to have your attorney’s fess paid by the condemning authority after the situation is resolved. Even if you are not eligible for attorney’s fees, you ALWAYS have the right to hire an attorney when facing the threat of eminent domain.
Should I hire an attorney?
It is probably a good idea to speak with an attorney as early as possible. Eminent domain is a very technical process and one that involves a private citizen taking on the power of the government. Eminent domain abuse thrives in misinformation; and intimidation, misrepresentation and coercion are common schemes used by abusers in order to circumvent your rights under Missouri law. You may certainly proceed through the process without legal representation, but it is vital to your interests that you diligently research Missouri law so that you are not dependant on the good will of opposing parties.
When will the government present an offer of just compensation for my property?
Under the new Missouri law passed by the legislature as HB1944, a condemning authority has to present a written offer to all owners of record of the property at least thirty days before filing a condemnation petition. The offer must be held open for the thirty day period unless an agreement is made sooner.
Do I have the right to make a counteroffer?
Yes. You have a right to make a counteroffer and to engage in further negotiations.
What are “good faith negotiations?
Good faith negotiations are defined by statute in Missouri. House Bill 1944 provides the statutory definition:
“A condemning authority shall be deemed to have engaged in good faith negotiations if:
(1) It has properly and timely given all notices to owners required by this chapter;
(2) Its offer under section 523.253 was no lower than the amount reflected in an appraisal performed by a state-licensed or state-certified appraiser for the condemning authority, provided an appraisal is given to the owner pursuant to subsection 2 of section 523.253 or, in other cases, the offer is no lower than the amount provided in the basis for its determination of the value of the property as provided to the owner under subsection 2 of section 523.253;
(3) The owner has been given an opportunity to obtain his or her own appraisal from a state-licensed or state-certified appraiser of his or her choice; and
(4) Where applicable, it has considered an alternate location suggested by the owner under section 523.265.”
What happens if the government doesn’t engage in “good faith” negotiations?
If the court finds that good faith negotiations have not occurred, the court shall dismiss the condemnation petition, without prejudice, and shall order the condemning authority to reimburse the owner for his or her actual reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs incurred with respect to the condemnation proceeding which has been dismissed.
Can farmland be “blighted?
No. After Governor Blunt signed the latest Missouri eminent domain reform bill, farmland can never be blighted.
What is considered “farmland?
“…the term “farmland” shall mean all real property classified as forest cropland or all real property used for agricultural purposes and devoted primarily to the raising and harvesting of crops; to the feeding, breeding, and management of livestock which shall include breeding and boarding of horses; to dairy operations, or to any combination thereof; and buildings and structures customarily associated with farming, agricultural, and horticultural uses. "Farmland" shall also include land devoted to and qualifying for payments or other compensation under a soil conservation or agricultural assistance program under an agreement with an agency of the federal government.”
The definition of farmland is laid out in Section 523.286 of the Missouri Revised Statutes:
Do I have a right to obtain my own appraisal for just compensation?
Yes. You have a right to obtain your own appraisal for just compensation.
What if the government abandons the condemnation of my property?
RSMO Section 523.259 deals the abandonment of condemnation in this way:
If any condemning authority abandons a condemnation, each owner of interests sought to be condemned shall be entitled to recover:
(1) Their reasonable attorneys' fees, expert expenses and costs; and
(2) The lesser of:
(a) The owner's actual damages accruing as a direct and proximate result of the pendency of the condemnation if proven by the owner; or
(b) The damages required to be paid to an owner in the event of an abandonment under the terms of the applicable redevelopment plan or agreement.
In the event that the applicable redevelopment plan or agreement is silent as to damages required to be paid to an owner in the event of an abandonment, a court shall order the condemning authority to pay the owner's actual reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses, and shall award damages accruing as a direct and proximate result of the pendency of the condemnation if proven by the landowner.
2. The provisions of this section shall only apply to redevelopment plans or agreements entered into after December 31, 2006.
Should I rely on the government’s opinion that any proposal to take my property isn’t a “big deal?
When confronted by potential victims of eminent domain, one of the most popular responses of condemning authorities is that the plan isn’t a “big deal.”
This is a way to get angry homeowners out of the room, or off of the phone, or to get the media to ignore the issue. This is a common ploy used to try to quell the unrest that Missourians feel when homes are taken for “redevelopment.”
Remember, this is YOUR home, YOUR small business, or YOUR farm on the line. A threat to your property rights is only going to be as big of a deal as YOU make it.
Even if the municipality says the plan is nothing more than a “preliminary proposal?
This is another line that condemning authorities use to try to calm the Missouri property owners whose homes and small businesses are in potential peril.
These “preliminary proposals” have been explained to other Missouri small business owners as nothing more than a “back of a napkin sketch,” or just “one avenue of many” that may be used to redevelop the area. If government officials are considering sketches that include your current business as a parking lot, it will probably be more than a “back of a napkin” sketch to you.
Again, this is YOUR property and a threat to YOUR property rights is only going to be as of a deal as YOU make it.
If members of my municipal government say that eminent domain will only be used as a “last resort”, does that mean that my property rights are more secure?
No. As discussed above, this is another ploy used by condemning authorities to quell the unrest caused by threats to Missourians’ homes and small businesses. Your property rights are not strengthened by a simple statement that eminent domain will only be used as a “last resort.” This particular ploy has been documented by news outlets across the state in recent years.