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What are my rights if the government interferes with my property?

On Behalf of | Sep 12, 2023 | Real Estate Law

As an Alabama property owner, you might know that the government can sometimes take all or part of your property if it must use it for some other legitimate purpose. This is called a taking or a condemnation and the government must pay you compensation for it.

The government is the one who initiates legal proceedings in these types of cases. A government authority will usually contact you and offer to purchase your property for their project.

You have a right to refuse this offer, and depending on the circumstances, sometimes you should. The initial offer is often below the full amount of compensation you should receive.

The condemnation process

If you refuse the offer, a hearing will be held to decide if the government can take your property without your consent. This is called an eminent domain proceeding.

You might receive compensation that is a good faith estimate of your property’s value, with additional hearings held later to determine the full value of your property. If the estimate was too low, you should receive the difference between that and the full value.

However, what happens if the government does not take your property, but does something outside of your property that interferes with or completely prohibits you from using your property?

Inverse condemnation

This situation is called inverse condemnation and you are typically the one who must initiate legal proceedings. You must prove that the government’s actions caused you to lose the use and enjoyment of your property.

Inverse condemnation does not necessarily require the government’s action to be done directly on your property.

For example, if you live next to a stream, and the government builds a new structure across the stream from you that causes the stream water to divert and flood your property, you could have a claim for inverse condemnation.

While the government themselves did not touch your land, their actions resulted in the loss of your use and enjoyment of your property, since it is now flooded. Proof of damage to your property may not be required if you can show that the actions affect your use of the property.

You have the right to fight back

The relief you request in your lawsuit is generally compensation for the full value of your property. The process follows the same general procedures as in a regular condemnation proceeding.

You may feel powerless in the face of the government, and this is understandable. Many people might not realize the rights they have in these situations.

You do not have to let the government take your land simply because they asked. If you do not want to give up your land, they must prove to a court why they need it.

Likewise, if they do not ask for your land but their actions are interfering with it or causing damage, you have a right to sue them for compensation.