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Alabama Eminent Domain Laws

Alabama Eminent Domain Code can be found in Title 18 of Alabama Code.  Chapter 1 A explains eminent domain generally. 

General Provisions and Definitions are explained in Article 1 of Chapter 1A.   Chapter 1A provides standards for the acquisition of property by condemnors, the conduct of condemnation actions, and the determination of just compensation[i].

Article 2 of Chapter 1A describes policies governing land acquisition.  Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 18-1A-21, before commencing a condemnation action, the condemnor shall cause the property to be appraised to determine the amount that would constitute just compensation for its taking.  The owner or his or her other representative shall be given a reasonable opportunity to accompany the appraiser during the inspection of the property.  The condemnor shall establish an amount based on appraisal and submit to the owner an offer to acquire the property for the full amount so established[ii].  The amount shall not be less than the condemnor’s established amount of just compensation for the property.  An owner shall not surrender possession of property before the condemnor pays the agreed purchase price; or pays, or deposits the amount awarded by the condemnation order[iii].  A condemnor shall acquire at least an equal interest in all buildings, structures, or other improvements located upon the real property acquired, which the condemnor requires to be destroyed or removed or which will be adversely affected by the use to which the real property will be put[iv].

Article 3 explains proceedings before action.  Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 18-1A-50 a condemnor and its agents and employees may enter upon real property for a reasonable time and make surveys, examinations, photographs, tests, soundings, borings, and samplings, or engage in other activities for the purpose of appraising the property or determining whether it is suitable and within the power of the condemnor to take for public use, if the entry is preceded by reasonable efforts to notify the owner, and the entry is undertaken peaceably during reasonable daylight hours and for reasonable times without inflicting substantial injury. 

Article 4 deals with commencement of action by condemnor.  Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 18-1A-70 the procedure for condemnation of property under the power of eminent domain is governed by the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure.  A condemnation action is commenced by filing a complaint for condemnation with the probate court in the county in which the property or any part thereof sought to be taken is located[v].

Article 5 deals with defendant’s responses.  Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 18-1A-90 the defendant may respond by answer if s/he challenges the right to condemn or questions or disputes the area to be acquired or remain.  If a defendant claims no interest in the just compensation to be awarded s/he may file a disclaimer.  The plaintiff has the burden of proof on all issues of fact raised in connection with a preliminary objection.  If in support of a preliminary objection a defendant alleges fraud, corruption, bad faith, or gross abuse of discretion on the part of the plaintiff or any of its officers, agents, or employees, the defendant has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence the facts relating to that particular allegation[vi].

Article 6 explains deposit and possession prior to judgment.  Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 18-1A-110, at any time after payment of the award and before entry of judgment, the defendant by motion may withdraw the amount of the condemnor’s approved offer.  The motion shall specify the applicant’s property for which the deposit was made and request leave to withdraw such amount from the funds on deposit.  Upon motion of a party at any time after a deposit has been made, the court shall direct that the money not withdrawn be invested in certificates of deposit of federal and state banks and savings and loan associations, or in treasury bills, notes, or obligations of the federal government or any agency thereof.  Interest earned or other increments derived from the investment is allocated, credited, and disbursed between the parties pro rata, in relation to the final award[vii].

Article 7 describes proceedings before trial.  Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure governs discovery and pretrial conferences in condemnation actions in circuit court[viii]. 

Article 9 explains procedure for determining just compensation.  Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 18-1A-150, condemnation actions shall be heard and tried in advance of other civil actions.  The amount of compensation and any additional issue shall be determined by a jury only if a party entitled to participate in the trial of the issue expressly demands trial by jury[ix].  The circuit court shall determine all other issues without a jury.  The circuit court or jury shall first determine the total compensation as between the plaintiff and all defendants claiming an interest in the property[x].  The circuit court shall determine the apportionment of the amount awarded in a subsequent proceeding.  After the amount of compensation has been determined, the plaintiff may withdraw from further participation in the trial.

Article 10 deals with compensation.  Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 18-1A-170 an owner of property acquired by eminent domain is entitled to compensation.  If there is a partial taking, the valuation rule is the difference between the fair market value of the entire property before the taking and the fair market value of the remainder after the taking.

Article 11 deals with evidence in condemnation actions.  Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 18-1A-190 evidence in condemnation actions are governed by the rules of evidence applicable in other civil actions.

Article 12 describes judgment and post judgment procedures.  Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 18-1A-210, the judgment shall describe the property condemned and declare the right of the plaintiff to take it by eminent domain and recite the amount of compensation and damages, if any, and declare that title to the property will be transferred to the plaintiff after the plaintiff has paid to the defendant, or to the court for the benefit of the defendant, the amount awarded.  If the plaintiff fails to make full payment of the judgment, within the time allowed under section 18-1A-214, the defendant may treat the failure to make payment as an abandonment of the condemnation action with respect to the property for which payment has not been made, and may move to vacate the judgment and for a dismissal under section 18-1A-230[xi].

Article 13 deals with dismissal and abandonment of condemnation actions.  Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 18-1A-230, on motion of the defendant, the court shall dismiss the action in whole or in part, as justice requires, if:
1) Upon sustaining a preliminary objection to the plaintiff’s complaint, the court determines that a dismissal is required;
2) The plaintiff has unjustifiably failed to exercise reasonable diligence in prosecuting the action;
3) The plaintiff has failed to pay the full amount required by the judgment within time allowed.
Likewise, the court may dismiss the action in whole or in part upon motion of the plaintiff at any time prior to payment of the judgment.  In its order of dismissal, the court may impose any conditions that are just and equitable, including a requirement of restitution of property or money[xii].

Article 15 deals with arbitration of compensation in condemnation actions.  Pursuant to Code of Ala. § 18-1A-250 a condemnor and a condemnee or two or more condemnees may enter into and comply with the terms of an agreement for the arbitration of any issue relating to the amount or the apportionment of compensation for the taking of property.

 [i] Code of Ala. § 18-1A-2.

[ii] Code of Ala. § 18-1A-22.

[iii] Code of Ala. § 18-1A-23.

[iv] Code of Ala. § 18-1A-28.

[v] Code of Ala. § 18-1A-71.

[vi] Code of Ala. § 18-1A-94.

[vii] Code of Ala. § 18-1A-111.

[viii] Code of Ala. § 18-1A-130.

[ix] Code of Ala. § 18-1A-151.

[x] Code of Ala. § 18-1A-154.

[xi] Code of Ala. § 18-1A-215.

[xii] Code of Ala. § 18-1A-231.

Inside Alabama Eminent Domain Laws