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Condemnation & Eminent Domain

Has your property been taken without your consent? We’re on it.

Eminent domain, also known as condemnation, is when a government or a utility (a pipeline or a power line) takes your property without your consent. If you have been affected by eminent domain, it is important that you understand your legal rights. Eminent domain is a technical and highly specialized area of the law.   

Attorneys Dan Hannula and Ryan Scherz have successfully handled condemnation cases for over 30 years. Dan first worked for the government in condemnation cases. Now he and and Ryan work for land owners. From the first notice of a possible taking through trial, we know how to navigate and negotiate this highly complex area of the law. Dan and Ryan will personally visit and view your property so that he can see it from your side and maximize your claim for just compensation. Don’t try to negotiate alone. We can help you get the money your property is really worth. In many cases, we can also get your legal fees paid, too.

We help people like you

Eminent domain or condemnation affects ordinary people, people like you. We helped a client in Taylor County Wisconsin with a farm that had been in the family for generations. His farm was cut in half by a transmission line.   

We helped homeowners in Waupaca County Wisconsin—a young couple with four small children who suddenly found a high voltage transmission line next to their house.   

We have helped business owners, such as a machine shop owner in Outagamie County who was forced to move his high-tech computerized equipment in order to get away from voltage interference.   

Each case is unique. The Fifth Amendment gives the government the right to take property for a public use. But, the law also gives property owners the right to “just compensation.”   

Before your property is taken from you, the government (or public utility) must follow specific procedures: good faith negotiations, an independent appraisal, a second appraisal with an appraiser of your own choosing, and relocation assistance if you have to move. Eminent domain is not just about the government’s right to take your property—it’s supposed to be fair. That’s where we come in. We make sure the procedures that make it fair are followed. We know you value your property. Whether we fight the government’s right to take your land or negotiate or litigate for fair compensation, our goal is to protect your property rights in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Resources

Wisconsin Land Owner Rights (PDF)

Wisconsin Eminent Domain, Highways and Streets (PDF)

Frequently Asked Questions

Who has the right to condemn land in Wisconsin?
The federal government, the state of Wisconsin, cities, and counties have the right to condemn for a public purpose. The federal and state Governments may also give that right to certain corporations and utilities (high voltage power lines, pipelines) for a public purpose.   

The United States Constitution, Article 5 states: “No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”  

The Wisconsin Constitution, Article 1, Section 13 states: “The property of no person shall be taken for public use without just compensation therefor.”   

How is property condemned?
At the beginning, the state or other condemning authority follows a strict government process to get the right to take property. If this is not done properly a landowner can stop the condemnation process.   

How is property valued?
Valuation, and thus compensation, in eminent domain cases in Wisconsin depends on what is taken from the landowner. The law requires that the landowner gets paid the fair market value for his property based on the land’s highest and best use. If only part of the property is taken, then the landowner is entitled to the difference between the fair market value of all his land before any taking occurs and the value of the remainder after the taking.

The law also requires that the government negotiate in good faith first and give the landowner an independent appraisal. The landowner also has the right to get his own independent appraisal and may request that the government pay for it if landowner gives the government a copy. There are strategic reasons involved in getting a second appraisal during this early part of the condemnation process. You should consult with a lawyer on this decision.   

What is “relocation assistance?”
Relocation assistance is provided when property owners are dislocated because of the public project. Relocation payments are separate and apart from compensation paid for the land taken and may include moving costs, broker fees, and business moving costs.   

At what point should a property owner get a lawyer?
Timing is critical if property owners want to contest the condemning authority’s right to take. Moreover, there are strategic decisions to be made in the negotiation process and with regard to getting a second appraisal. Condemning authorities do not advise property owners that they need legal counsel. Eminent domain is an area that is best handled by attorneys who have experience in this practice. You should review your rights at this link. 

What will a lawyer cost me?
Most lawyers who handle condemnation matters will charge an hourly fee for their services. It is also possible to hire a lawyer on a contingent fee (a fee based on a percentage of the award). It all depends on the type of case. In some cases, all your expenses (legal fees, appraisal fees and out-of-pocket costs) may be paid by the government. You need to discuss this with a lawyer experienced in condemnation law.

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