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.
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?
The term “blighted” will usually refer to the condition of the property. In Missouri, there are multiple definitions of “blight.” Below are links to three definitions of “blight” under Missouri law.
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.
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.
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.
What is considered “farmland?”
The definition of farmland is laid out in Section 523.286 of the Missouri Revised Statutes:
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.”
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.
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.