Photo by John C. Lorson.

Eminent domain reform bill introduced to protect Ohio landowners

Ohio lags behind most states in protections for landowners. In fact, when Ohio landowners are faced with losing property rights through eminent domain, the present law makes it difficult for them to defend their own interests and they often find themselves at a disadvantage.
House Bill 698, introduced by State Rep. Darrell Kick (OH-70) and State Rep. Rodney Creech (OH-43), would create a more direct legal route for a landowner to receive compensation when property is taken by the government without compensation, using a court action called inverse condemnation. In most states, when a property owner files an eminent domain case in court, the court starts by determining if there was indeed a taking of land or property value and if the owner is owed compensation. If so, the same court handles the trial to set the amount of compensation to the landowner.

“This legislation would give safeguards to landowners across Ohio to protect them from government and utilities taking property,” said Adam Sharp, executive vice president of Ohio Farm Bureau. “We appreciate Representatives Kick and Creech for bringing this issue forward and offering a path to bring Ohio in line with almost all other state and federal laws when it comes to eminent domain.”
Current Ohio law, on the other hand, requires a landowner to first file a lawsuit to force the government or entity taking property to follow the law, then separately go through the eminent domain process The farmer must prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that the law wasn’t followed, an incredibly high standard of proof to meet.
“How eminent domain is used has always been a concern of mine,” said Rep. Kick. “While the ability to utilize eminent domain is important, I want to make sure that landowners have a say, so that power’s not abused.”
The proposed bill would also allow landowners to challenge the necessity of takings, makes a “good faith” offer the floor for compensation, penalizes coercive action, and grants landowners mandatory attorney fees for successful defense of appeals.
“This legislation is necessary to ensure that those who can’t afford to defend their land from eminent domain have policy in place to better protect their property rights,” said Rep. Creech.

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