An Overview of Eminent Domain & Condemnation In South Carolina - Part 5 of 6
If I don’t agree with the Condemnor’ offer, who decides how much money I get?
An Appraisal Panel or a Trial Jury. State law provides that either an Appraisal Panel or a Trial Jury determines the amount of compensation to be paid to a Condemnee who loses his property through condemnation. If the Condemnor elects to use the Appraisal Panel, and the Condemnee disagrees with the decision of the Appraisal Panel, the case can be appealed to the Circuit Court and still tried before a jury. If the parties agree to forego a jury trial, the amount of just compensation can be determined by a Judge or Special Referee.
Most Condemnees elect to have a jury determine value because then the decision regarding just compensation rests with twelve fellow citizens rather than a Judge. Many people feel more comfortable having ordinary citizens, rather than a judge, determine just compensation.
What am I entitled to be paid for?
It depends. A Condemnee is entitled to the fair market value of any property taken, damages to any remaining property caused by the taking and construction of the project (often called special damages), less any benefits from the project to the property remaining. In some cases, a Condemnee is entitled to Relocation Assistance (discussed in the next section). The facts of every case are different, and a Condemnee should consult with an experienced eminent domain attorney to determine what may be compensable.
Condemnation has many specialized rules regarding compensation. It is therefore not possible to cover in this short general guide all the nuances which may affect your rights to compensation. If you have a specific question, you should consult an experienced eminent domain attorney.
Relocation Assistance is often available to persons and businesses displaced by a public project. Relocation falls into two classifications: Residential Displacements and Non-Residential Displacements. The first is available to persons whose dwelling place is affected; the second applies to businesses affected. Relocation Assistance eligibility is generally triggered when the Condemnor initiates the negotiations for the acquisition of the property. Generally, relocation assistance is a reimbursement of certain qualified expenses.
This aspect of public acquisitions can become quite complex. Generally, the larger the condemning authority the more likely that these benefits will be afforded in a timely fashion to Condemnees. Large State governmental agencies and most Federal governmental agencies employ or contract with specialists to manage administration of these benefits.
Many Cities and Counties and Public Utilities are generally less conversant with these benefits and, in some cases, may need to be prodded into providing them.
Relocation Assistance for Residential Displacements may include 1) moving and related expenses (that is, actual costs of moving personal belongings); and, 2) replacement housing. In cases where sub-standard housing is taken or destroyed, the condemning authority must put the displaced person in decent, safe and sanitary replacement housing -- even if the new housing is worth more than the housing taken.
Relocation Assistance for Non-Residential Displacements may include 1) actual moving and related expenses (based on bids) OR fixed moving expense payment a/k/a "in lieu" payment; 2) reestablishment expenses (such as new stationery and telephone numbers for an active business); and, 3) some actual search costs incurred with searching for a new business location. There are limits to the amount of relocation assistance available in each of these categories and there are qualifications as to how each of these are determined. Personal property and inventory are eligible for relocation while realty and fixtures are not eligible for relocation.
Other Moving Items
"Moving Items" are not part of Relocation Assistance. These are items of personal property (or, "personalty") which may be found on the property acquired but which can be moved or relocated at some expense to other land of the Condemnee. For example: a gate, mailbox, sign, irrigation system or fence may be moved back and reinstalled on the Condemnee’s property. These items are usually moved at the Condemnor’s expense.
NOTE: Relocation Assistance is not part of the trial on just compensation. If a Condemnee disagrees with the determination of appropriate Relocation Assistance, the Condemnee must appeal that to the Condemnor. After that appeal, the matter may be resolved by the Courts.