What do you do when a city or county offers you money for an easement on your property? How much is an easement worth?
A governmental entity, such as a city or county, may have a need for a utility easement across your property. This may be for a new sewer or sewage easement. It could also be for a new roadway, or the expansion of an existing street or road. Sometimes, a utility company may also want to cross your land to provide services for a neighbor and also offers you money.
Typically, in a situation like this, the homeowner or property owner will first receive a letter from the governmental entity or utility company seeking the easement. What are three things that you need to know about that letter?
1) Do not ignore the letter or other written communication! Often times, we see homeowners that are too busy and they don’t pay attention to official letters about proposed developments. Remember, this is your property! If the city or county believes that they need your property, they will likely take it through, what is called, eminent domain proceedings.
2) Consult with an attorney before signing anything. A package with an offer from the city or county attorney, or perhaps a right of way agent, often contains a description of the property to be taken and an appraisal they have done for the property. This normally is a starting point for the negotiations, not the end of the negotiations. I have had cases where the homeowner has come to me after signing an offer from the city. At that point, it’s likely too late for an attorney to get involved, because the person is likely bound by what they signed.
3) Get an accurate understanding about what the easement may be worth. The valuation of an easement depends on several factors. For example, how much land is being taken for a permanent easement? What restrictions will be placed on your use of the area? Is there a temporary construction easement area involved? Does the governmental entity need to cross other parts of your property to get to the easement? Will there be other damages to your property (called severance damages), such as the removal of roadways, parking, pathways, lighting, trees, shrubs, mailboxes, walls, or gates? Will the easement affect the overall value of your property, or perhaps even make your property hard to sell later? Does the easement affect your property so much that it essentially is a complete taking?
Getting a complete and accurate understanding of the offer from an experienced attorney is important. These types of consultations are free at A.G. Linett & Associates. Also, if we decide to accept your case, it is on a contingency fee basis, so there is no up-front charge. Our goal is to make sure you get the best value for your property and to protect your rights. If you have any further questions, please make an appointment today by calling 336-316-1190.