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Indiana law grants certain governmental bodies and private companies the power to take your land for a public use if you are paid “just compensation” for the land that is condemned.
A couple of examples of entities that have the power of condemnation in Indiana are public utility companies and the State of Indiana. The State may seek to acquire part of your real estate for purposes of improving a public road that lies adjacent to your property. A public utility may want to condemn an interest in your real estate in order to place an underground natural gas pipeline on your land.
This article will give you a brief overview of some steps that I recommend if you are approached by a condemning authority to acquire some of your property.
If an entity approaches you to acquire through condemnation some of your real estate, you need to consult with legal counsel in order to determine whether that entity has the power to condemn your real estate. If that entity does not have the power of condemnation, you are not legally obligated to sell your real estate to that entity.
Once you have determined that the entity does have the power of condemnation in the State of Indiana, you need to determine if the initial offer made by that condemning authority to acquire a part of your real estate is a reasonable offer based on the fair market value of your land and the damages that will accrue to the remainder of your land once a portion of your real estate is condemned. Please be advised that the first offer made by the condemning authority most likely will not be based on an appraisal of the value of your land; but instead, most likely will be based on an estimate of value made by an employee of the condemning authority.
If you refuse to sell your real estate to the condemning authority based on this initial offer, the condemning authority is required to submit to you a Uniform Offer pursuant to very specific procedures specified in Indiana statutes. This Uniform Offer must be based on an appraisal of the value of your real estate that is being condemned as well as any other damages that may accrue to the remainder of your real estate following the condemnation. This Uniform Offer must also be given before the condemning authority may file a lawsuit against you to condemn a portion of your real estate.
If you are still of the opinion that the offer for your real estate made in the Uniform Offer is less than the value of your real estate, you are still not required to accept that offer made by the condemning authority. If you reject the Uniform Offer and are unable to reach an agreement with the condemning authority regarding the acquisition of your land, the condemning authority will proceed to file a Complaint for Condemnation to acquire a portion of your real estate pursuant to Indiana’s Condemnation Law.
Once the Complaint for Condemnation is filed, you have certain limited bases for objecting to that entity’s right to condemn your real estate. If you file no such objections or such objections are overruled by the Court, the next step in the condemnation process is for the Court to appoint appraisers to appraise the value of the condemnation. These appraisers will conduct an inspection of your real estate and make a determination regarding the fair market value of the land that is sought to be acquired by the condemning authority, the fair market value of all improvements to your property that will be acquired in the condemnation, the damages to the residue of your property caused by the condemnation, and a determination of any other damages that will result from the construction of the improvements in the manner proposed by the condemning authority.
You or the condemning authority have the right to object to the determination of value made by the court appointed appraisers. If no objections are filed, you will be paid the amount determined by the court appointed appraisers. If objections are filed, the Court will set the matter for trial and you will be able to put on evidence of the value of your real estate and your damages sustained as a result of the condemnation.
It is important to seek the assistance of an experienced condemnation lawyer if you are approached by a condemning authority to acquire some of your real estate. An experienced condemnation lawyer will be able to assist you with the procedures that must be followed in order to condemn a portion of your real estate, and will also be able to advise you with respect to ways to obtain the highest value for your real estate.