The timeline of eminent domain

Eminent domain is a controversial practice, with many seeing it as an unreasonable encroachment on someone’s right to own land.

There are steps that the state of California must follow to ensure that the process is fair and they take time. These steps can be challenged by the property owner.

You may have an idea of what happens in an eminent domain case, but the timeline can be confusing.

Here is a general timeline of how long the state of California expects an eminent domain case to take. These timelines are general, and some instances may take longer:

Initial offer

The state will inform you that your property has been targeted for eminent domain. They will give you an outline of the process and send an appraiser to estimate the value of the property.

If you think the value is fair you can agree to the initial appraisal offer. However, it is almost always beneficial to seek a second opinion.

Declining the initial offer of compensation begins the litigation process.

First steps

Once the state receives your refusal of first offer, they file a summons in court as well as an order for possession, legally staking a claim on your property.

Independent appraiser (within a month of refusing first offer)

After filing with a court, the state will hire an independent appraiser to do a second appraisal on your property.

This appraiser is known as an “expert witness” in the eyes of the state, and they will use his or her appraisal as the number deemed fair market value.

Defendants answer (three months)

If you do not answer the legal summons within the allotted timeframe you will not be able to continue to trial. It is important that all defendants submit the appropriate paperwork before any deadlines.

Presubmission (eight months after refusal of first offer)

The state offers proof of their Right of Way, supporting the legitimacy of their claim. They also introduce their independent appraiser.

If California’s offer has changed and you no longer want to take the case to trial, this is where you can enter into negotiations.

Exchange valuations (11 months)

This happens if you have not reached an agreement with California to obtain your property. Each side exchanges updated valuations of the property and the reasoning behind them.

Final offer (about a year after contact)

California will submit their last offer to you. This is based on your exchanged valuations and any developments between the initial offer and now.

Trial begins (13 months)

If a trial is necessary, the state expects eminent domain cases to reach trial in around 13 months.

This timeline shows how quickly eminent domain cases can move if you do not act.

If you are worried about eminent domain targeting your property or have already been contacted, talk to an attorney who specializes in this unique area to learn about your options.

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Robert J. Ernst III, Attorney at Law
149 Bonifacio Place
Monterey, CA 93940

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