The right to just compensation, when the government acquires property through eminent domain, is enshrined in the Bill of Rights and all state constitutions. However, courts struggle to define how what compensation is “just”. The valuation question involves a careful appraisal of the property—its location, structures, zoning, state and municipal regulations, and so forth. Further complicating this analysis is the fact that property values can change sporadically in relatively brief periods. Plunges nationwide in real estate values in cities like Detroit and Las Vegas attest to this fact. Thus, the question of when a taking occurs is paramount. The “general rule is that value is fixed at the time property is actually appropriated.” This seems like a simple determination, and under “slow take” procedures, where appropriation and compensation occur at the same time, it is. However, many states now use a “quick take” procedure, in which the government takes title to property before initiating condemnation proceedings. The gap between acquisition of property and when the owner actually receives compensation can be months, even years. In this interim period, many events can affect value of the property, especially changes in the real estate market and rezoning of the property.
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