Eminent Domain Georgia


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What Does Eminent Domain Mean?

Can the government take your home? Professionals with Perigon Legal Services have compiled this guide to help you understand Eminent Domain in Georgia. Call us.

Author: Stan Faulkner, Founder, Perigon Legal Services, LLC

Mr. Faulkner is an experienced counselor and litigator with 15 years of experience, having held bar licenses in four states (Mo, Il, Ct and Ga). Stan Faulkner uses this experience and focuses his skills in the pursuit of assisting individuals in probate (trust and estate) matters, guardianships and conservatorships, estate planning, business disputes and contract disputes. Published on May 09, 2023.

Property ownership is quite clear in law— once you own something, you own it forever. You own it, and you can’t simply take it away from you. Usually, this is the case, but under certain circumstances, the government might decide to use your land. If this happens, the owner has not much choice but to accept it.

The US Constitution, however, entitles the government to take private property for public use. In exchange, just compensation is required, a practice known as eminent domain.

A skilled real estate attorney in Atlanta can help you if you feel your property has been unfairly targeted for eminent domain or you have not been adequately compensated.


How Does Eminent Domain Work?


The Georgia government has the legal right to take your property with eminent domain, regardless of whether you want to sell it or not. However, the Fifth Amendment offers some protection. Such an action must be for the public’s benefit (or “public use”), such as for constructing roads or bridges. The government further has an obligation to provide adequate and fair (or “just”) compensation to property owners in return.

Eminent domain is only to be used when there’s a need that serves the public. There is no set definition of what form this need should take, which can vary. It may involve permanently taking away your land, temporarily taking it, or just taking some rights away while allowing you to retain ownership of the property itself.

Georgia Eminent Domain Law

Although the United States Constitution grants the federal government the right to “eminent domain,” each state has its own interpretation. In Georgia, these laws are stated in Title 22 of the Georgia Code.

The right of eminent domain in Georgia means that the state has the right to reassert, either temporarily or permanently, its control over any portion of its soil in the event of public necessity.

A skilled real estate lawyer can help you determine whether the compensation you have been offered is fair market value for your property. If you need to take your case to court, a real estate dispute attorney could be of service.

Is Eminent Domain Legal?


The practice of eminent domain is entirely legal as long as the standard requirements are followed. However, you may also hear the terms “blight” and “condemnation” when dealing with eminent domain. This means that your property is unfit for use as it is. Therefore, it will be appropriated by the state.

The US Supreme Court weakened federal protection against unconstitutional eminent domain in Kelo v. New London in 2005 by expanding the meaning of “public use” to include private economic development projects.

Therefore, local governments could take possession of condemned homes and businesses in order to generate tax revenue.

How Is Property Valued Under Eminent Domain in Georgia?

Eminent domain laws in Georgia recognize the requirement of “just compensation,” but the statute does not define it. This results in many property owners accepting lower offers than their properties are worth without realizing it. If they don’t receive a fair market value for their property, this can create great hardship.

A government offer for your property under eminent domain does not have to explain how the price was calculated, nor does the state have to disclose its Georgia Land Survey valuations.

As long as you agree to the offer, you will get paid, and the state will take over the property. If not, they may still keep the property, but you can try to negotiate for higher compensation. A knowledgeable law firm may be able to assist you.


Georgia’s Protection Against Unjust Eminent Domain


Georgia has taken measures to secure its citizens from eminent domain. House Bill 1313(2006) effectively opposes the Kelo ruling by determining that economic advancement is not an official use that warrants eminent domain. The law recently changed in Georgia, making the definition of “blight” more precise when it comes to eminent domain laws.

To be deemed blighted, a condemning authority has to prove the property fulfills two out of the six objective criteria and shows potential for causing any of the following:

  • Ill health
  • Transmitting diseases
  • Leading to high infant mortality
  • Increasing crime in its immediate vicinity

For government officials to lawfully condemn properties for private development, they may assess the level of blight present on an individual basis. This is a requirement stipulated by the law.

The recently passed law emphasizes that property cannot be considered blighted due to aesthetic considerations. Therefore, it’s no longer possible to demolish an entire neighborhood due to a couple of buildings that have fallen into disrepair.

Property and business owners can now protect their investments by merely taking good care of their structures. The government is now responsible for proving that a specific property meets all criteria for being recognized as a blight.

How Can an Attorney Help With Eminent Domain Issues?

Eminent domain is a legal concept that can be a complex and confusing process for individuals, businesses, and organizations. An attorney experienced with eminent domain law can help guide you through the process and protect your rights.

They can advise you on the proper action, help negotiate with the government, and represent you in court if necessary. An experienced attorney will have an in-depth understanding of all aspects of eminent domain law and be able to provide legal advice tailored to your individual needs.

Talk to an attorney at Perigon Legal Services for questions about an eminent domain matter.


Frequently Asked Questions


Can the City Take Your House?

Municipalities have the legal right to exercise eminent domain to acquire private or public property for public use when necessary. Typically, state or local governments conduct eminent domain appropriations in order to construct public use facilities, like schools, hospitals, and parks.

Additionally, eminent domain may be used by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to provide services for the construction, extension, revamping, or alteration of roads and sewage systems. It can also aid private utility organizations in increasing or refining their utilities or access to them.


Can You Refuse Eminent Domain in Georgia?

In Georgia, eminent domain can only be challenged if it does not serve a public interest or necessity. Most of these cases are usually handled by the GDOT to build roads or widen existing ones.

Even if you refuse their financial offer, the government can still acquire your property. Once the state deposits the money with the Clerk of Court in your county, they will gain legal ownership. Consulting with an attorney who thoroughly understands Georgia Property Laws can be helpful.

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