Utah Eminent Domain Laws

In Utah, the right of eminent domain may be exercised for a public use including:

  • all public uses authorized by the Government of the United States;
  • public buildings and grounds for the use of the state, and all other public uses authorized by the Legislature;
  • public buildings and grounds for the use of any county, city, town, or board of education;
  • all other public uses for the benefit of any county, city, or town, or its inhabitants;
  • any occupancy in common by the owners or possessors of different mines, quarries, coal mines, mineral deposits, mills, smelters, or other places for the reduction of ores, or any place for the flow, deposit or conduct of tailings or refuse matter[i].

Before property can be taken it must appear that:

  • the use to which it is to be applied is a use authorized by law;
  • the taking is necessary for the use;
  • construction and use of all property sought to be condemned will commence within a reasonable time as determined by the court, after the initiation of proceedings under this part; and
  • if already appropriated to some public use, the public use to which it is to be applied is a more necessary public use.

Property may not be taken by a political subdivision of the state unless the governing body of the political subdivision approves the taking.  Before taking a final vote to approve the filing of an eminent domain action, the governing body of each political subdivision intending to take property shall provide written notice to each owner of property to be taken at each public meeting of the political subdivision’s governing body at which a vote on the proposed taking is expected to occur and allow the property owner the opportunity to be heard on the proposed taking.  The requirement under Subsection (2)(c) to provide notice to a property owner is satisfied by the governing body mailing the written notice to the property owner:

  • at the owner’s address as shown on the records of the county assessor’s office; and
  • at least ten business days before the public meeting[ii].

If land is required for public use, the person or the person’s agent in charge of the use may survey and locate the property.  It must be located in the manner which will be most compatible with the greatest public good and the least private injury, and subject to the provisions of this chapter.  The person or the person’s agent in charge of the public use may, at reasonable times and upon reasonable notice, enter upon the land and make examinations, surveys, and maps of the land.  Entry upon land does not constitute a cause of action in favor of the owners of the lands, except for actual damage to the land and improvements on the land caused by the entry and which is not repaired on or before the date the examinations and surveys are completed[iii].

The complaint shall contain:

  • the name of the corporation, association, commission or person in charge of the public use for which the property is sought, who must be styled plaintiff;
  • the names of all owners and claimants of the property, if known, or a statement that they are unknown, who must be styled defendants;
  • a statement of the right of the plaintiff;
  • if a right of way is sought, its location, general route, beginning and ending, and be accompanied by a map of the proposed right of way, as it is involved in the action or proceeding;
  • if any interest in land is sought for a right of way or associated facilities for a subject activity as defined in Section 19-3-318[iv].
  • if the property sought to be condemned constitutes only a part of a larger parcel, the damages which will accrue to the portion not sought to be condemned by reason of its severance from the portion sought to be condemned and the construction of the improvement in the manner proposed by the plaintiff.
  • if the property, though no part of it is taken, will be damaged by the construction of the proposed improvement, and the amount of the damages;
  • if the property sought to be condemned consists of water rights or part of a water delivery system or both, and the taking will cause present or future damage to or impairment of the water delivery system not being taken, including impairment of the system’s carrying capacity, an amount to compensate for the damage or impairment;
  • if land on which crops are growing at the time of service of summons is sought to be condemned, the value that those crops would have had after being harvested, taking into account the expenses that would have been incurred cultivating and harvesting the crops.

The court, jury, or referee shall hear any legal evidence offered by any of the parties to the proceedings, and determine and assess:

  • the value of the property sought to be condemned and all improvements pertaining to the realty;
  • the value of each and every separate estate or interest in the property; and
  • if it consists of different parcels, the value of each parcel and of each estate or interest in each shall be separately assessed[v].

For the purpose of assessing compensation and damages, the right to compensation and damages shall be considered to have accrued at the date of the service of summons, and its actual value at that date shall be the measure of compensation for all property to be actually taken, and the basis of damages to property not actually taken, but injuriously affected, in all cases where damages are allowed, as provided in Section 78B-6-511.  The court or the jury shall consider mitigation or reduction of damages in its assessment of compensation and damages if, after the date of the service of summons, the plaintiff mitigates the damages to the property; or reduces the amount of property actually taken.  Improvements put upon the property by the property owner subsequent to the date of service of summons may not be included in the assessment of compensation or damages[vi].

When payments have been made and the bond given, if the plaintiff elects to give one, the court shall make a final judgment of condemnation, which shall describe the property condemned and the purpose of the condemnation.  A copy of the judgment shall be filed in the office of the county recorder and the property described in it shall vest in the plaintiff for the purpose specified[vii].

“Under threat of condemnation” means the circumstances under which a condemnor, with the right to acquire the property by eminent domain, acquires property from a condemnee in a transaction that occurs without a judgment having been entered in an eminent domain action; and after the condemnor has sent the condemnee a written notice indicating an intent to pursue an eminent domain action to a judgment compelling the transaction.  At the time of or within a reasonable time after an acquisition of property under threat of condemnation, a condemnor shall provide the condemnee a written statement identifying the public use for which the property is being acquired.  Before the acquired property may be put to a use other than the public use for which the property was acquired, the condemnor shall send a written offer by certified mail to the condemnee at the condemnee’s last known address, offering to sell the acquired property to the condemnee at the acquisition price.  A condemnee may accept an offer if the offer is accepted within 90 days after the offer is sent to the condemnee.

A condemnee’s purchase of acquired property under this section shall be concluded within a reasonable time after the condemnee accepts the condemnor’s offer to sell the acquired property.  If the condemnee does not accept an offer within the time specified, the condemnor has no further obligation under this section to the condemnee with respect to the acquired property.  If a condemnor puts acquired property to the public use for which the property was acquired, the condemnor’s obligation to offer to sell the acquired property to the condemnee terminates, even if the acquired property is subsequently put to a use other than the public use for which the property was acquired.  A sale or transfer of acquired property none of which has been put to the public use for which the property was acquired is considered to be a use other than the public use for which the property was acquired.  A condemnee may waive the condemnee’s right to purchase acquired property by executing a written waiver[viii].

[i] Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-501.

[ii] Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-504.

[iii] Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-506.

[iv] Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-507.

[v] Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-511.

[vi] Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-512.

[vii] Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-516.

[viii] Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-520.3.


Inside Utah Eminent Domain Laws