South Carolina Eminent Domain Attorney
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What is Eminent Domain?
Eminent domain is when the government or a particular entity that the government granted this power takes your private property for the public use. Common examples of eminent domain “takings” including take all or a portion of a personal private property for road widening, for utility easements, or for various “economic development” interests.
But don’t worry – you have protections! If the government has notified you that it intends to take your property, you are entitled to “just compensation” for your property. Do not take the government’s first, low-ball offer. Contact an experienced South Carolina eminent domain attorney to get the most for your property.
What if I do not want the government to take my property in South Carolina?
Unfortunately, under South Carolina eminent domain law, it can be difficult to entirely stop a government from taking your private property. For the government to take an individual’s property, there must be a necessity for the taking. This is not an absolute necessity, but rather a reasonable necessity. A governmental taking must be for the “public use.” The term “public use” is an elastic one and determining whether a taking for this purpose falls under the purview of the term is a question of fact in each particular case. If the use is of benefit, utility, or advantage to the public, the use is a public one within the meaning of the law of eminent domain. A condemnation of property for parks, public squares, historical sites, parking reasons, or beautification purposes have been recognized as acceptable “public uses.”
However, it is important to note that South Carolina takes a restrictive view of the term “public use.” The term is one of use, and thus “implies possession, occupation, and enjoyment of the land by the public at large or by public agencies.” South Carolina rejects the notion that condemnation of a property is proper under vague grounds of “public benefit,” and instead advocates that “public use” refers to a fixed, definite, and enforceable right of use. Therefore, in order for a taking for public use to be proper in South Carolina, the public must have a definite and fixed use of the property to be condemned, instead of some vague public benefit derived as a consequence of the taking.
What is “just compensation”? How much is my property worth in a South Carolina eminent domain action?
If the Federal government, the South Carolina government, or another local government in South Carolina notifies you that it intends to rely on its eminent domain powers to take your property, you are entitled to “just compensation” for that taking.
“Just compensation” is a term of art referring to the compensation individuals receive when the property is seized by the government for public use. Just compensation is the amount of money the government pays homeowners and landowners based on the fair market value of the property and all improvements on the property
Typically, the government will send you a low-ball appraisal and determine that it is just compensation. However, you should not take that first offer. Instead, you should get an appraisal conducted on the property yourself to determine what the “just compensation” is for your property.
In addition, in determining just compensation, only the value of the property to be taken, any diminution in the value of the landowner’s remaining property, and any benefits as provided in benefits of public works project to landowner may be considered. Therefore, the correct measure of damages to a landowner is “the value of the land at the date of the taking plus any resulting injury to the remaining property offset by any benefits to the remaining land as a result of [a public works] project.”
Moreover, proven injury to the landowner will result in added compensation. Compensation is not limited to the value of the property as it is used by the landowner at the time of condemnation. Instead, “the owner is entitled to the value of the property under its most advantageous or profitable use, including any use reasonably anticipated in the near future.” The landowner carries the burden of proving the amount he is entitled to receive as just compensation.
What if the government is taking my business?
In South Carolina if the government decides to use eminent domain to take your property, it does not have to value the business on the property but rather just the land and all improvements. When determining the valuation of a property, the value of a business on the property may not be considered when determining market value.
However, if the business actually enhances the value of the real estate, then it may be considered. Additionally, loss of business resulting from a taking is not considered when determining just compensation. Relocation expenses may be provided to the homeowner/business owner. However, any removal costs of personal property are not considered as an element of damage, as such loss is not a taking of property.