Frequently Asked Questions
Wisconsin law has extensive procedures in place to protect Wisconsin landowners. However, the law is complex and can be very confusing. Below are some questions that landowners frequently ask during the eminent domain process.
How can the government simply take my property?
If you do not want to willingly sell your property to the government, the government can exercise its eminent domain power to acquire your land. Eminent domain or condemnation is the process by which the government acquires your land in exchange for ‘just compensation.’
How do I get paid if I do not voluntarily sell my property?
If you force the government to begin condemnation proceedings by not voluntarily selling your property, the government must pay its good faith value for your property at the outset of the condemnation proceedings. You will not be punished or receive less compensation by not voluntarily selling and forcing the government to exercise its eminent domain powers. However, it is important to remember that just because the government pays you what it determines to be ‘just compensation’ it does not automatically mean that you were fairly compensated.
Can I stop the government from taking my property via eminent domain?
Yes, but it is difficult. State and local governments continue to stretch their use of eminent domain. To block eminent domain, the landowner must prove that the taking fails to serve a public purpose or public necessity. This is an uphill (and expensive) battle because of the Wisconsin courts’ broad definition of both public purpose and public necessity.
How do I select an appraiser?
Eminent domain is a niche area and it is important that you select an appraiser familiar with eminent domain appraisals. When selecting an appraiser you should make sure they have a thorough understanding of eminent domain valuation rules, experience with the type of property being acquired, ability to produce an articulated and comprehensive report and experience as a witness for court proceedings. In addition, you want an appraiser who will give you an honest valuation of your land, not simply the highest value possible because such valuation will not hold up during litigation.
I do not think I'm being treated fairly, but I can't afford an attorney. What should I do?
As a way to encourage landowners to protect their property rights and prevent the government from abusing its eminent domain power, Wisconsin law requires that the government pay legal fees and expenses in certain condemnation proceedings. In Wisconsin, the most common situation is when the jury verdict approved by the court exceeds the jurisdictional offer by at least $700 and 15%.