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Eminent Domain


Milwaukee Eminent Domain Attorney

Lawyers Representing Wisconsin Property Owners in Condemnation Cases

In the United States, the government is allowed to seize private real estate property when it is necessary for public use. This is known as eminent domain, and there are a variety of reasons a person’s property may be taken. For example, a city, town, or county may need property in order to build highways or public facilities, or power lines or oil or natural gas pipelines may need to be built on a piece of land. When the government exercises its eminent domain powers, it uses a process known as condemnation, and it is required to provide the property owner with just compensation for the property.

If the government plans to acquire your property through eminent domain, you will want to work with an experienced attorney to ensure that your rights are protected. At Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP, our lawyers can help you determine whether you can challenge the government’s right to seize your property, and if you do turn over your land, we can ensure that you are properly compensated.

The Eminent Domain Process in Wisconsin

When a government agency or division plans a project that will require it to take private property, it will typically hold public meetings to discuss the plans for the project and inform property owners about how they will be affected. The process of obtaining property through condemnation may involve some or all of the following steps:

  1. Relocation order - A county board of supervisors or county highway committee may be required to file an order with the applicable county clerk that includes maps of the current property and the intended improvements or developments.
  2. Appraisal - The condemning agency must obtain at least one appraisal of a property it intends to acquire, and this appraisal must be provided to the property owner. The property owner may also perform a separate appraisal, which will be paid for by the agency.
  3. Offer and negotiation - The government will make an initial offer to purchase the property at a fair market value. The agency and property owner may negotiate a purchase price, and if an offer is accepted, the deed to the property will be transferred to the agency.
  4. Jurisdictional offer - If the owner rejects the initial offer or is unable to negotiate a fair purchase price, the government will make a jurisdictional offer that describes the planned project, gives a proposed date of occupancy, and states the amount of compensation offered to the property owner. The owner will then have 20 days to accept or reject this offer, and they may take one of the following actions:
    • Acceptance of offer - If the owner accepts the jurisdictional offer, the title to the property will be transferred to the government, and compensation must be paid to the owner within 60 days.
    • Contest of condemnation - Within 40 days after the jurisdictional offer is made, the owner may contest the government’s right of condemnation, and a trial may be held to determine whether the agency is allowed to take the property.
    • Award of damages - If the owner does not accept the jurisdictional offer, the agency will provide the owner with the compensation as specified in the offer and inform them of the date of occupancy. The deed to the property will then be transferred to the agency.
  5. Occupancy - An agency must provide a property owner with at least 90 days’ notice before occupying the property, allowing the person time to relocate to a new home or business.
  6. Contest of the compensation award - If the property owner believes the amount of compensation provided by the government was insufficient, they may file a claim for additional compensation in the circuit court. If the owner accepted an initial offer or jurisdictional offer, a claim must be filed within six months. If the property was acquired through an award of damages, the property owner will have two years to file a claim. The county condemnation commission will review the case and determine the amount of just compensation that should be awarded to the property owner based on the fair market value. Either party may appeal the commission’s decision in the circuit court. A property owner may also request that the case be heard in the circuit court instead of a hearing before the commission, and the matter may be settled through a jury trial.

Contact a Milwaukee, WI Eminent Domain Lawyer

There are many complex issues involved in eminent domain cases. In addition to determining the fair market value of a property, property owners may need to address “uneconomic remnants” that would be left following the seizure of a portion of property, or they may need to pursue compensation for other negative effects resulting from the acquisition of property through eminent domain. Property owners may also be able to recover attorney’s fees and related costs from the government if they are awarded compensation that is at least 15% higher than the agency’s jurisdictional offer. Our attorneys can help you understand your rights in these cases, and we will work with you to ensure that you are fairly compensated. Contact us today by calling 414-271-1440.

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