Condemnation FAQ

Condemnation, eminent domain, and property rights are complicated. Do not hesitate to contact Hannula Halom & Scherz at 715-718-3621 or online to discuss your questions about your specific situation. We offer free initial consultations. Based in Superior, we work with clients throughout northern Wisconsin.

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 government 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.