New Jersey Eminent Domain Laws can be found in Title twenty of New Jersey Statutes. Pursuant to N.J. Stat. § 20:3-5, the Superior Court of New Jersey has jurisdiction of all condemnation matters and all matters incidental thereto and arising therefrom, including jurisdiction to:
- determine the authority to exercise the power of eminent domain;
- compel the exercise of such power;
- fix and determine the compensation to be paid and the parties entitled thereto, and
- determine title to all property affected by the action.
Whenever any condemnor is to acquire property pursuant to law, including public property already devoted to public purpose, but cannot acquire title thereto or possession thereof by agreement with a prospective condemnee, the condemnation of such property and the compensation to be paid and all matters incidental thereto and arising therefrom is governed, ascertained and paid by and in the manner provided by the Eminent Domain Act of 1971[i].
However, no action to condemn should be instituted unless the condemnor is unable to acquire such title or possession through bona fide negotiations with the prospective condemnee.
Pursuant to N.J. Stat. § 20:3-8, the action should be instituted by filing of a verified complaint in form and content specified by the rules and should demand judgment that condemnor is duly vested with and has duly exercised its authority to acquire the property being condemned, and for an order appointing commissioners to fix the compensation required to be paid.
After the filing of the complaint, the condemnor should issue and with due diligence, cause process to be served or published[ii]. The notice given and process served or published is effective to bind all condemnees. Within fourteen days after the filing of the complaint, the condemnor should cause to be filed and recorded in the recording office, a notice of the pendency of the action[iii].
Upon determination that the condemnor is authorized to and has duly exercised its power of eminent domain, the court should appoint three commissioners to determine the compensation to be paid by reason of the exercise of such power[iv]. The commissioners shall hold hearings at which the parties and their witnesses may be heard, under oath, administered by any commissioner.
Within four months following their appointment, the commissioners or a majority of them should make and file an award fixing and determining the compensation to be paid by the condemnor.
N.J. Stat. § 20:3-13 provides that any party who has appeared at the hearings of the commissioners, either personally or through an attorney, may appeal from the award of the commissioners.
After the institution of an action and service of process, the condemnor may file in the action and if so filed, should also file in the recording office, a declaration of taking, duly executed by an executive official of the condemnor[v]. Simultaneously with the filing of the declaration of taking, the condemnor should deposit the amount of such estimated compensation with the clerk of the court[vi].
A copy of the declaration of taking and notice of the filing should be served upon the condemnee and all occupants of the property and proof of such service should be filed in the action[vii]. Thereupon, the right to the immediate and exclusive possession and title to the property described in the declaration of taking vests in the condemnor, free and discharged of all right, title, interest, and liens of all condemnees without the necessity of further process provided.
However, the court may, upon application and good cause shown, stay the taking of possession of the land or other property, or authorize possession to be taken upon prescribed conditions.
N.J. Stat. § 20:3-29 provides that the condemnee is entitled to compensation for the property, and damages, if any, to any remaining property. Pursuant to N.J. Stat. § 20:3-31, interest as set by the court upon the amount of compensation determined to be payable should be paid by the condemnor from the date of the commencement of the action until the date of payment of the compensation.
[i] N.J. Stat. § 20:3-6.
[ii] N.J. Stat. § 20:3-9.
[iii] N.J. Stat. § 20:3-10.
[iv] N.J. Stat. § 20:3-12.
[v] N.J. Stat. § 20:3-17.
[vi] N.J. Stat. § 20:3-18.
[vii] N.J. Stat. § 20:3-19.