You’ve received notice that your property is subject to condemnation, or eminent domain. That means a government agency wants to take your property for a public use, such as a road.

That’s within the law. But what are your rights as a property owner when you receive that notice?

First of all, you’re entitled to compensation – the fair market value of the property for its highest use. For instance, if your home is in an area zoned for either commercial or residential use, your compensation will be based off the highest value of the property. That typically is commercial use.

Next, fighting eminent domain is tough, so you must understand the process to better protect your rights. Start by contacting an attorney experienced in eminent domain and condemnation as soon as you receive notice of the government’s plans for your property. That notice could come by mail, in person or even a phone call, depending on the agency.

Even if the agency is asking for something simple, such as taking a few feet across the length of your property and not the entire property itself, you don’t want to sign off on anything without an attorney reading it. There could be fine print that could harm you down the road.

Once you’ve met with your attorney, hire an appraiser unaffiliated with the government to determine just what your property is worth. The government will have its idea of “just compensation,” and your appraiser could agree with it – or disagree. You need to be armed with accurate information before you proceed. Having an appraisal gives you a greater opportunity to sit down and negotiate a proper price.

Having done your due diligence, you can decide whether to accept the offer or fight. Accepting the offer will put a quick end to the process; fighting could be time-consuming, but in the end, better for your bottom line.