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Understanding your rights when the government threatens to take your land

When you learn that a governmental entity here in the state of Georgia has an interest in securing your property for use in a public project, it's likely that you will experience a range of emotions from shock and outrage to anxiety and perhaps even resignation.

While this is entirely understandable, it's important to understand that not only you do have rights as a landowner, but that the governmental entity looking to condemn and seize your land via the exercise of its eminent domain powers must abide by certain processes and procedures.

Indeed, before phrases like acquisition of property rights, condemnation and, of course, eminent domain can even enter the conversation, state law requires that the governmental entity must first make a reasonable effort to purchase your land via good-faith negotiations. Only after this step has failed can the governmental entity initiate condemnation proceedings.

Even then, the governmental entity is bound by rather strict notice requirements, meaning it cannot hold a meeting to decide whether to file a condemnation action unless the following steps have been completed beforehand:

  1. The landowner has been personally served with notice of the condemnation meeting at least fifteen days prior to its scheduled date. (Notification by mail is acceptable if personal service fails).
  2. If circumstances allow it, the governmental entity has posted a sign on a right of way located next to the landowner's property at least fifteen days in advance of the condemnation meeting listing the time, date and location at which it will be held.
  3. Notice of the condemnation meeting is published in a local newspaper, but outside of the section where legal notices are typically located

We'll continue to explore this topic in future posts.

In the meantime, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if the government has made any sort of attempt to take your property.

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