Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 25.1. Eminent Domain
Chapter 2. Condemnation Procedures
4/15/2021

Article 1. General Provisions.

§ 25.1-200. Chapter controls condemnation proceedings.

Unless otherwise specifically provided by law, all proceedings for the condemnation of property under the power of eminent domain shall be brought and conducted according to the provisions of this chapter.

1962, c. 426, § 25-46.2; 2003, c. 940.

§ 25.1-201. Jurisdiction of condemnation proceedings.

Jurisdiction of proceedings to condemn property under this chapter shall be in the circuit court of the county or city wherein such property, or the greater portion thereof proposed to be condemned is situated, unless otherwise specifically provided by law.

Code 1919, § 4361; Code 1950, § 25-2; 1962, c. 426, § 25-46.4; 2003, c. 940.

§ 25.1-202. Nature of proceedings.

Condemnation proceedings shall be conducted as actions at law.

1972, c. 533, § 25-46.4:1; 2003, c. 940.

§ 25.1-203. Authority of certain condemnors to inspect property; reimbursement for damages; notice prior to entry.

A. In connection with any project wherein the power of eminent domain may be exercised, any locality or any petitioner exercising the procedure set forth in Chapter 3 (§ 25.1-300 et seq.), acting through its duly authorized officers, agents or employees, may enter upon any property without the written permission of its owner if (i) the petitioner has requested the owner's permission to inspect the property as provided in subsection B, (ii) the owner's written permission is not received prior to the date entry is proposed, and (iii) the petitioner has given the owner notice of intent to enter as provided in subsection C.

B. 1. A request for permission to inspect shall (i) be sent to the owner by certified mail, return receipt requested, delivered by guaranteed overnight courier, or otherwise delivered to the owner in person with proof of delivery; and (ii) be made not less than 15 days prior to the first date of the proposed inspection. A request for permission to inspect shall be deemed to be made on the date of mailing, if mailed, or otherwise on the date of delivery.

2. A request for permission to inspect shall include (i) the specific date or dates such inspection is proposed to be made; (ii) the name of the entity entering the property; (iii) the number of persons for whom permission is sought; (iv) the purpose for which entry is made; and (v) the testing, appraisals, or examinations to be performed and other actions to be taken.

C. If the owner's written permission is not received within 15 days of the request for permission, then the petitioner shall provide notice of intent to enter. Notice of intent to enter shall be sent to the owner by certified mail and be (i) posted at the entryway to the property or at the front door or such other door that appears to be the main entrance of the residence or business located on the parcel upon which the property to be entered is located, if the parcel contains a residence or business; (ii) delivered by guaranteed overnight courier; or (iii) otherwise delivered to the owner in person with evidence of receipt. The notice of intent to enter shall include a copy of the request for permission to inspect and shall be made not less than 15 days prior to the date of intended entry. The notice of intent to enter shall include (a) the specific date or dates of such intended entry; (b) the name of the entity entering the property; (c) the number of persons intending to enter the property; (d) the purpose for which entry is made; and (e) the testing, appraisals, or examinations to be performed and other actions to be taken, which in no way shall exceed those set forth in the request for permission pursuant to subdivision B 2. Notice of intent to enter shall be deemed made on the earlier of (1) the date of mailing, if mailed, or (2) on the date of delivery or posting. Any individuals entering the property shall carry identification and shall present such identification upon request of the landowner or his authorized representative.

D. Any entry authorized by this section (i) shall be for the purpose of making surveys, tests, appraisals or examinations thereof in order to determine the suitability of such property for the project, and (ii) shall not be deemed a trespass.

E. The petitioner shall make reimbursement for any actual damages resulting from entry upon the property. In any action filed under this section, the court may award the owner his reasonable (i) attorney fees, (ii) court costs, and (iii) fees for up to three experts or as many experts as are called by the petitioner, whichever is greater, who testified at trial if the court finds that the petitioner damaged the owner's property. A proceeding under this subsection shall not preclude the owner from pursuing any additional remedies available at law or equity.

F. The requirements of this section shall not apply to the practice of land surveying, as defined in § 54.1-400, when such surveying is not involved in any eminent domain or any proposed eminent domain matter.

1968, c. 415, § 25-232.1; 1970, c. 182; 2003, c. 940; 2005, c. 877; 2019, c. 788.

§ 25.1-204. Effort to purchase required; prerequisite to effort to purchase or filing certificate.

A. A condemnor shall not institute proceedings to condemn property until a bona fide but ineffectual effort to purchase from the owner the property sought to be condemned has been made. However, such effort shall not be required if the consent cannot be obtained because one or more of the owners (i) is a person under a disability or is otherwise unable to convey legal title to such property, (ii) is unknown, or (iii) cannot with reasonable diligence be found within this Commonwealth.

B. Such bona fide effort shall include delivery of, or attempt to deliver, a written offer to acquire accompanied by a written statement to the owner that explains the factual basis for the condemnor's offer. The written statement shall include a description of the public use for which it is necessary to acquire the owner's property and shall contain a certification that the acquisition has been reviewed by the condemnor for purposes of complying with § 1-219.1. The written offer shall be made upon the state agency's letterhead and shall be signed by an authorized employee of such state agency.

C. If the condemnor obtains an appraisal of the property pursuant to the provisions of § 25.1-417, such written statement shall include a complete copy of the appraisal of the property upon which such offer is based. If the condemnor obtains more than one appraisal, such written statement shall include a copy of all appraisals obtained prior to making an offer to acquire or initiating negotiations for the real property.

D. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, a condemnor, prior to making an offer to acquire a fee simple interest in property by purchase or filing a certificate of take or certificate of deposit pursuant to Chapter 3 (§ 25.1-300 et seq.) or § 33.2-1019, shall (i) conduct or cause to be conducted an examination of title to the property in order to ascertain the identity of each owner of such property and to determine the nature and extent of such owner's interests in the property and (ii) provide to such owner or owners a copy of the report of status of title.

E. A state agency's acquisition of real property in connection with any programs or projects pursuant to this title or Title 33.2 shall be conducted in accordance with the following provisions:

1. Before making an offer to acquire or initiating any related negotiations for real property, the state agency shall establish an amount which it believes to be just compensation therefor and shall make a prompt offer to acquire the property for the full amount so established. In no event shall such amount be less than the state agency's approved appraisal of the fair market value of such property, if such an appraisal is required, or the current assessed value of such property for real estate tax purposes, unless the property has physically changed in a material and substantial way since the current assessment date such that the real estate tax assessment no longer represents a fair valuation of the property, when the entire parcel for which the assessment is made is to be acquired, whichever is greater. Any decrease or increase in the fair market value of real property prior to the date of valuation caused by the public improvement for which such property is acquired, or by the likelihood that the property would be acquired for such improvement, other than that due to physical deterioration within the reasonable control of the owner, shall be disregarded in determining the compensation for the property. The state agency concerned shall provide the owner of real property to be acquired with a written statement of, and summary of the basis for, the amount it established as just compensation, and, if an appraisal is required or obtained, such written statement and summary shall include a complete copy of all appraisals of the real property to be acquired that the state agency obtained prior to making an offer to acquire or initiating negotiations for the real property. The state agency shall provide its written statement of the amount it established as just compensation on its letterhead, which shall be signed by an authorized employee of such state agency. Where appropriate, the just compensation for the real property acquired and for damages to remaining real property shall be separately stated.

2. No owner shall be required to surrender possession of real property before the state agency pays the agreed purchase price, or deposits with the state court in accordance with applicable law, for the benefit of the owner, (i) an amount not less than the state agency's approved appraisal of the fair market value of such property, if such an appraisal is required, or the current assessed value of such property for real estate tax purposes, unless the property has physically changed in a material and substantial way since the current assessment date such that the real estate tax assessment no longer represents a fair valuation of the property, when the entire parcel for which the assessment is made is to be acquired, whichever is greater, or (ii) the amount of the award of compensation in the condemnation proceeding for such property.

F. Nothing in this section shall make evidence of tax assessments admissible as proof of value in an eminent domain proceeding.

Code 1919, § 4363; Code 1950, § 25-7; 1962, c. 426, § 25-46.5; 1998, c. 556; 2000, c. 1029; 2003, cc. 627, 940; 2005, c. 878; 2011, cc. 117, 190; 2013, c. 764; 2020, c. 793.