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December 31, 2021

What Every Ohioan Should Know About Eminent Domain

by Clinton Stahler, Esq., Goldman Braunstein Stahler Kenter LLP

“Eminent domain” is a term most property owners hope to never hear. It conjures up images of steamrollers, bulldozers and wrecking balls, of having valuable real estate destroyed, or of losing one’s home and memories. But while virtually every property owner in Ohio is subject to eminent domain, they also have many powerful rights with which to defend themselves and ensure that they are treated fairly and made whole for what they’ve lost.

Many property owners would be surprised to learn that nearly 100 different types of entities known as “condemning authorities,” which include both government and private companies, can use eminent domain to take private property under Ohio law. Whether it be a road widening, bike path, sewer extension, water line, power line, pipeline, landfill, hospital or new recreational fields for the nearby school, if the project is deemed “necessary for a public use” the condemning authority behind it can take the property it needs by eminent domain.

Many property owners would also be surprised to learn how many powerful rights they have with which to defend themselves under Ohio law. For example, the property owner can challenge the project outright as not being necessary or as not fulfilling the condemning authority’s claimed purpose. If the property owner prevails, the condemning authority will be prohibited from taking the property. If the condemning authority prevails, then the property owner is entitled to receive full and fair compensation for the property taken, plus the decrease in the value of the remaining property—valued at the property’s “highest and best use.” This ensures that the property owner receives the maximum compensation based on the property’s most valuable possible use, regardless of its present use. In some cases, property owners can also recover for other losses, such as relocation expenses and business losses. And in many cases, property owners can recover their attorney’s fees and expenses incurred as a result of the eminent domain action against them.

However, those confronted by eminent domain may also be surprised to learn how little the condemning authority will seek to pay for their property. It stands to reason that condemning authorities generally seek to minimize the costs associated with their projects, including the costs of acquiring the necessary property. Nonetheless, property owners have powerful constitutional rights that might entitle them to significantly more compensation than the condemning authority will offer. For this reason, it is imperative that property owners be aware of their legal rights before signing a deal with a condemning authority.

In sum, Ohio law gives property owners many powerful rights with which to defend themselves in eminent domain actions. These rights are critical to ensuring that private property is not taken unnecessarily, and that when property is taken, the property owner receives the full compensation to which they are entitled by law. The effects of eminent domain are permanent, and the property owner only has one chance to ensure that they are treated fairly and made whole for what they’ve lost. Property owners owe it to themselves to consult with an experienced eminent domain attorney as soon as they receive notice of a proposed eminent domain action against them.


Stahler

Many property owners would also be surprised to learn how many powerful rights they have with which to defend themselves under Ohio law. For example, the property owner can challenge the project outright as not being necessary or as not fulfilling the condemning authority’s claimed purpose.