When you buy a property in Virginia, you expect to retain control over it until you die or choose to sell it to someone else. Typically, that is what ownership rights confer to someone. However, there are some circumstances in which you could lose control over your property without consenting to a sale or dying.
An eminent domain claim is one such scenario. The federal government and the state of Virginia both have rules that allow for the seizure of private property for public benefit. Typically, such seizures are only possible for major projects, like the construction of a new highway overpass.
Eminent domain claims may result in the forced sale of your property. If you refuse to sell when approached, the party managing the project could initiate condemnation proceedings to force the sale. Do you have to worry about the loss of your home or investment property for a public project?
Eminent domain cases are relatively rare
While the government can force the sale of properties to move forward with a highway expansion or other important public projects, such forced sales are still relatively rare. Many homeowners will eventually negotiate a voluntary sale with the authority trying to condemn their property for eminent domain purposes.
Those who believe their property does not need to be part of the project or that the compensation offered is unfair may need to fight the claim and ask the civil courts for help. Some homeowners even work together to raise questions about whether the proposed project meets the necessary standards for eminent domain.
How you can protect your rights
Some property owners can avoid the condemnation of their property entirely by showing that there are other properties available nearby for the same projects and that theirs is not strictly necessary. Others may be able to present documentation to the courts that shows the offer made is unreasonably low. They may be able to receive fair market compensation for their property based on the improvements that they have made and what it would sell for in its current condition.
Learning more about your real estate rights in Virginia can help you respond to rumors of a big public project near your house or a purchase offer that might result in the condemnation of your property.