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The California Eminent Domain Handbook

Chapter II: The Eminent Domain Process

What are the general steps involved in an eminent domain proceeding?

Generally, when the government wants to take your property by eminent domain, you can expect the government to take some or all of the following steps in about the following order:

  1. Initial contact by government agency to express interest in the property and/or scheduling date for appraisal or environmental assessment of the property;

  2. Appraisal of the property, including improvements, by agency retained appraiser;

  3. Offer to purchase the property is made to the owner, together with summary of appraisal upon which offer to purchase is made;

  4. Notice of public hearing to adopt "resolution of necessity" to acquire property by eminent domain;

  5. Public hearing is held to adopt "resolution of necessity" to acquire the property by eminent domain;

  6. Eminent domain case is filed in court and served on property owner;

  7. Deposit by agency of the probable amount of just compensation is paid into court and motion by agency for early possession of the property;

  8. Discovery (i.e., depositions and document production) takes place in eminent domain action, and both the property owner and government hire appraisers to determine "fair market value" of the subject property;

  9. The property owner and government exchange their respective appraisers' reports;

  10. Final settlement offers and demands are exchanged (about 20 days before trial);

  11. If settlement cannot be reached, trial of the eminent domain action takes place before a jury whose job it is to determine "fair market value" of the subject property;

  12. Jury returns verdict and judgment is entered;

  13. Government pays judgment within 30 days following entry of judgment and title to subject property is transferred to the government by the court.

In addition, early in the process - owner/occupants and/or tenants should be contacted by a relocation agent retained by the government. The purpose of the relocation agent is to provide assistance to residents and business owners to relocate their residence or business.