Code of Virginia

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

Article 2. Condemnation Proceedings.

§ 25.1-205. Commencement of proceedings.

A. Proceedings for condemnation shall be initiated by filing a petition complying with the requirements of § 25.1-206 in the court.

B. A public utility shall not be required, as a prerequisite to its filing of its petition for the condemnation of property necessary for ordinary extensions or improvements of its facilities within the territory in which it is lawfully authorized to operate, for use in public utility service, to obtain a certificate from the State Corporation Commission under the Utility Facilities Act, Chapter 10.1 (§ 56-265.1 et seq.) of Title 56. This subsection shall not be construed to exempt a public utility from the requirements of § 25.1-102 when the condemnation would take property of another corporation possessing the power of eminent domain.

Code 1919, §§ 4364, 4365; Code 1950, §§ 25-8, 25-9, 25-10; 1962, c. 426, §§ 25-46.7, 25-46.9; 1975, c. 189; 1980, c. 441; 1981, c. 316; 1991, c. 520; 2000, c. 1029; 2003, c. 940.

§ 25.1-205.1. Mandatory dispute resolution orientation session.

Following the filing of a petition initiating a condemnation proceeding, the court shall refer the matter to a dispute resolution orientation as provided in § 8.01-576.5. The court shall set a date for the parties to return to court in accordance with its regular docket and procedure, irrespective of the referral to an orientation session. The parties shall notify the court, in writing, if the dispute is resolved prior to the return date.

Upon such referral, the parties shall attend one orientation session. Further participation in a dispute resolution proceeding shall be by consent of all parties. Attorneys for any party may be present during a dispute resolution proceeding.

2006, c. 415.

§ 25.1-206. Petition for condemnation.

The petition for condemnation shall contain:

1. A caption wherein the person vested by law with power to exercise the right of eminent domain shall be the petitioner, and the named defendants shall be at least one of the owners of some part of or an interest in the property to be taken or damaged, and the property to be taken designated generally by kind, quantity and location.

2. Short and plain statements of the following:

a. The authority for the taking;

b. The necessity for the work or improvements to be made;

c. The public uses for which the property is to be taken;

d. A description of the work or improvements to be made; and if (i) only a portion of the property is to be taken or (ii) any other property will or is likely to be damaged as the result of the taking, a plat, drawing or plan, in sufficient detail to disclose fairly the nature of such work or improvements, including specifications, elevations and grade changes, if any, so as to enable the owner of such property to be reasonably informed of the nature, extent and effect of such taking and the construction and operation of such works and improvements, shall be attached as an exhibit to the petition;

e. The estate, interest or rights in the property to be taken;

f. A description of the property to be taken sufficient for its identification and a plan or plat of the land to be taken shall be attached as an exhibit to the petition;

g. As to each separate piece of property to be taken or damaged, the names and residences, so far as known by petitioner, of the defendants who are joined as owners of the property, or of some interest therein, if their names have been ascertained by a reasonably diligent search of the records, considering the character and value of the property involved and the interests to be acquired, or if their names have otherwise been learned; and if the names of other persons or classes of persons to be joined as owners of the property are unknown, such persons may be made defendants under the designation of "Unknown Owners";

h. Compliance with the provisions of § 25.1-204 and the manner of such compliance; and

i. Where applicable, compliance with the provisions of § 25.1-102 and the manner of such compliance.

3. A prayer asking for judgment (i) that the property or the estate, interest or rights therein be condemned and the title thereto vested in the petitioner, (ii) that just compensation be ascertained as provided in § 25.1-230 and awarded, and (iii) for such other relief as may be lawful and proper.

4. The petition shall be verified by affidavit of a duly authorized officer, agent or attorney for the petitioner.

5. The petitioner shall furnish the clerk one copy of the petition and all exhibits thereto and such additional copies of the petition as may reasonably be needed by the clerk or any defendant.

Code 1919, § 4364; Code 1950, §§ 25-8, 25-9; 1962, c. 426, § 25-46.7; 1980, c. 441; 1981, c. 316; 1991, c. 520; 2003, c. 940.

§ 25.1-207. Inclusion in petition of request for right of entry.

The petition may also include (i) facts and circumstances on the basis of which the petitioner desires to obtain the right of entry as provided in § 25.1-223 or as provided in any charter and (ii) a prayer asking for such right of entry.

Code 1919, § 4364; Code 1950, §§ 25-8, 25-9; 1962, c. 426, § 25-46.7; 1980, c. 441; 1981, c. 316; 1991, c. 520; 2003, c. 940.

§ 25.1-208. Joinder of separate parcels.

The same petition may join one or more separate pieces, tracts, parcels or lots of land, whether in the same or different ownership and whether or not sought for the same use; however, the court, on its own motion or on motion of any party in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, may order a severance and separate trial of any claim or claims or of any issue or issues.

Code 1919, § 4364; Code 1950, §§ 25-8, 25-9; 1962, c. 426, § 25-46.7; 1980, c. 441; 1981, c. 316; 1991, c. 520; 2003, c. 940.

§ 25.1-209. Notice of filing of petition.

A. Upon the filing of a petition for condemnation, the petitioner shall give the owners 21 days' notice of the filing of such petition and of its intention to apply to the court to ascertain just compensation for the property to be taken or affected as a result of the taking and use by the petitioner of the property to be so acquired.

B. The notice, along with a copy of the petition, shall be served on the owners. In such notice, the petitioner shall give notice that an answer and grounds of defense shall be filed setting forth any objection or defense to the taking or damaging of his property or to the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case and to elect to proceed with either the appointment of commissioners or empanelment of a jury for the determination of such just compensation.

C. The notice may also include notice of the petitioner's application for the right of entry as provided in § 25.1-223, if such application is included in the petition as authorized by § 25.1-207.

D. A copy of the notice required to be served on the owners by this section also shall be served in the same manner upon any tenant entitled to participate in the proceeding pursuant to § 25.1-234, whose lease has been duly recorded or whose tenancy is actually known to the petitioner. However, a tenant so notified may participate in the proceeding only as permitted by § 25.1-234.

E. In addition to any other notice required to be served pursuant to this section, in any proceeding instituted by the Commissioner of Highways under this title or Title 33.2, a copy of the notice of the filing of the petition also shall be served, in the same manner as such notice is served upon owners, upon any person owning structures or improvements for which an outdoor advertising permit has been issued by the Commissioner of Highways pursuant to § 33.2-1208.

Code 1919, § 4365; Code 1950, § 25-10; 1962, c. 426, § 25-46.9; 1975, c. 189; 1991, c. 520; 2000, c. 1029; 2003, c. 940; 2006, c. 586; 2010, c. 835.

§ 25.1-210. Service of notice by order of publication; mailing copy of notice by publication.

A. Upon the filing of an affidavit by a duly authorized officer, agent or attorney for the petitioner stating that he believes any owner cannot be personally served because after diligent inquiry within the Commonwealth such owner's place of residence cannot be ascertained or, if ascertained, that it is not within this Commonwealth, service of the notice may be made on such owner by an order of publication. Such order shall be published in a newspaper published in the county or city where the property or major portion thereof is located, or if there is no such newspaper then in a newspaper having a general circulation in such city or county, once a week for not less than two successive calendar weeks and shall be posted on the front door of the courthouse within 10 days after the entry of the order of publication. Unknown owners who may have an interest in the property may be served by order of publication in like manner addressed to "Unknown Owners." The clerk shall mail a copy of the notice by publication to any owner who cannot be personally served but whose place of residence is then known.

B. The provisions of this section and § 25.1-211 shall apply only to orders of publication in condemnation actions.

Code 1919, § 4365; Code 1950, § 25-11; 1962, c. 426, § 25-46.10; 1982, c. 384; 2003, c. 940.

§ 25.1-211. Form of notice by publication.

A. The form of the notice by publication pursuant to § 25.1-210, to which shall be attached the signature of the clerk, or the deputy clerk for and on behalf of the clerk, shall be substantially as follows:

Virginia: In the (here insert the name of the court)

Name of petitioner

v.At Law......…

Name of one or more defendants, et al.,

and (......) acres, more or less, of land in

(city or county), Virginia.

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to an order entered on the..…day of........, 20...., this notice is hereby given:

In this proceeding the petitioner seeks to acquire by condemnation...… (here state the estate, interest, or right to be acquired) to certain pieces or parcels of land situated in............(county or city), Virginia, for the uses and purposes of the petitioner............(here state briefly the uses and purposes and nature of the works and improvements to be made), all of which are described more particularly in the petition and exhibits attached
thereto on file in the office of the clerk of his court, to which reference is hereby made for a full and accurate description thereof; and for the appointment of commissioners or the empanelment of a jury to ascertain just
compensation to the owners of any estate or interest in the property to be taken or affected as a result of the taking and use thereof by the petitioner.

For such purposes, the petitioner will apply to the court, sitting at......, Virginia, on the..… day of.........., 20...., at..… o'clock....m., or as soon thereafter as petitioner may be heard, for the appointment of commissioners or the empanelment of a jury to ascertain just compensation as aforesaid.

And it appearing by affidavit filed according to law that the following owners are not residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia, or their names and addresses are not known and that diligence has been used by and on behalf of the petitioner to ascertain such names and addresses without effect: (here set out the names of such owners or classes of owners and addresses where known), it is ordered that the aforesaid owners do appear within 10days after due publication of this order in the clerk's office of the (here insert the name of the court) and do what is necessary to protect their interests; and it is further ordered that if any of the above named owners desires to assert any objection or defense to the taking or damaging of his property or to the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case and to proceed with the appointment of commissioners or the empanelment of a jury he shall file his answer and grounds of defense designating the property in which he claims to be interested, the grounds of any objection or defense to the taking or damaging of his property or to the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case and to proceed with the appointment of commissioners or the empanelment of a jury for
the determination of just compensation. Should any such owner fail to file his answer and grounds of defense as hereinabove provided, such failure shall not preclude the owner from appearing on the date set for the appointment of commissioners or the empanelment of a jury nor from presenting evidence as to valuation and damage nor from sharing in the award of just compensation according to his interest therein or otherwise protecting his rights, but such failure shall preclude such owner from any other defense by way of pleas in
bar, abatement or otherwise.

An extract, Teste:

.........................................................…
Clerk

(Here state name and address of counsel for petitioner)

B. Such notice by publication may also include notice of the petitioner's application for the right of entry as provided in § 25.1-223, whenever such application is included in the petition.

1962, c. 426, § 25-46.11; 1991, c. 520; 2000, c. 1029; 2003, c. 940.

§ 25.1-212. Personal service of notice on nonresident owner.

Personal service of the notice of the filing of a petition may be made by any person, not a party to or otherwise interested in the subject matter in controversy, on a nonresident owner out of this Commonwealth. Such service shall have the same effect, and no other, as an order of publication duly executed, or the publication of notice under this chapter, as the case may be. In such case the return shall be made under oath, and shall show the time and place of such service, that the party serving the same is not a party to or otherwise interested in the subject matter in controversy, and that the person so served is a nonresident of this Commonwealth.

1962, c. 426, § 25-46.12; 2003, c. 940.

§ 25.1-213. Filing an answer and grounds of defense; election of commissioners or jury.

Within 21 days of the service thereof any such owner who desires to assert any objection or defense to the taking or damaging of his property or to the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case, and to make his election to proceed with either the appointment of commissioners or the empanelment of a jury, shall file (i) his answer and grounds of defense designating the property in which he claims to be interested, (ii) the grounds of any objection or defense to the taking or damaging of his property or to the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case, and (iii) his election to proceed with either the appointment of commissioners or the empanelment of a jury for the determination of just compensation.

Code 1919, § 4365; Code 1950, § 25-10; 1962, c. 426, § 25-46.9; 1975, c. 189; 1991, c. 520; 2000, c. 1029; 2003, c. 940; 2006, c. 586; 2010, c. 835.

§ 25.1-214. Failure of owner to file answer and grounds of defense.

A. The failure of any owner to file an answer and grounds of defense as provided in § 25.1-213 shall not preclude the owner from (i) appearing on the date set for the appointment of commissioners or the empanelment of a jury, (ii) presenting evidence as to valuation and damage, or (iii) sharing in the award of just compensation according to his interest therein or otherwise protecting his rights. However, such failure shall preclude the owner from any other defense by way of pleas in bar or otherwise, except that for good cause shown the time for filing such answer and grounds of defense may be extended by the court.

B. If the owner fails to file an answer and grounds of defense, or if the owner files an answer and grounds of defense that fails to elect to have the determination of just compensation made by either commissioners or a jury, then the petitioner may elect to have the issue of just compensation determined by either commissioners or a jury, or by the court as provided in § 25.1-220.

Code 1919, § 4365; Code 1950, § 25-10; 1962, c. 426, § 25-46.9; 1975, c. 189; 1991, c. 520; 2000, c. 1029; 2003, c. 940; 2006, c. 586; 2010, c. 835.

§ 25.1-215. No notice required where owner is a person under a disability; appointment of guardian ad litem.

If any owner is a person under a disability and has no guardian, conservator or committee in this Commonwealth, (i) no notice need be issued for or served upon such owner and (ii) a guardian ad litem for such owner shall be appointed in the manner prescribed in § 8.01-9.

Code 1919, § 4365; Code 1950, § 25-11; 1962, c. 426, § 25-46.13; 1997, c. 801; 2003, c. 940.

§ 25.1-216. Amendments to pleadings.

A. No amendments shall be made to the petition or other pleading after it is filed, except by leave of court.

B. Leave to amend for the addition of new parties and for other purposes shall be liberally granted in furtherance of the ends of justice.

C. In granting leave to amend, the court may make such provision for notice and opportunity to make response as the court deems reasonable and proper.

1962, c. 426, § 25-46.14; 2003, c. 940.

§ 25.1-217. Substitution of party where owner becomes incapable of defending.

A. If an owner becomes incapable of defending because of death, insanity, conviction of felony, removal from office, or other cause, his successor in interest may be substituted as a party in his place. Substitution shall be made on motion of the successor or of any party to the proceedings.

B. If the successor does not make or consent to the motion, the party making the motion shall file it with the court and the procedure thereon and the service of notice of such motion, if any, shall be in whatever manner the court may require as reasonable and proper in the circumstances involved but in no event shall the period of time required for any notice be greater than that which is prescribed for the notice in § 25.1-209 or § 25.1-210.

1962, c. 426, § 25-46.15; 2003, c. 940.

§ 25.1-218. Intervention in proceedings.

Any person not already a party to the proceedings whose property, or any interest or estate therein, is to be taken or damaged, or who claims that his other property, or any interest therein will be damaged as a result of the taking and use by the petitioner, may be made a party to the proceeding upon filing a petition for intervention by leave of court (i) at any time prior to the beginning of the trial of the issue of just compensation, or (ii) in the discretion of the court, at such other times during the pendency of the proceeding upon such terms and conditions as the court deems proper, considering all the circumstances at that time. Such a person intervening in the proceeding shall be permitted to assert any claim or defense then germane to the proceeding upon such terms and conditions as the court deems reasonable and proper.

Code 1919, § 4383; Code 1950, § 25-42; 1962, c. 426, § 25-46.16; 2003, c. 940.

§ 25.1-219. Pretrial settlement conference; determination of preliminary issues; fixing date of trial on issue of just compensation.

A. The owner or the petitioner in any condemnation proceeding may request and, if requested, the court shall order a pretrial settlement conference. Such conference shall be conducted by a neutral third party, if available. Such conference may be requested at any time by either the owner or the petitioner. If requested, such conference shall be held within the 30 days preceding the scheduled trial date. If such a conference is ordered, the court shall order both parties to appear with counsel, if any, and the parties shall appear with settlement authority. All settlement conferences conducted pursuant to this provision shall be nonbinding. If settlement is not reached, the matter shall proceed to trial as set upon the docket.

B. At the hearing upon the petition and application for either the appointment of commissioners or the empanelment of a jury made in accordance with § 25.1-209, if no answer and grounds of defense has been filed objecting to the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case and to proceed with the appointment of commissioners or the empanelment of a jury, the court shall enter an order fixing a date for the trial of the issue of just compensation and stating that such issue shall be determined by a commission, by a jury or by the court, as provided in § 25.1-220. If any answer and grounds of defense has been filed objecting to the jurisdiction of the court, the court shall determine such issues or other matters in controversy, excepting the issue of just compensation or matters relating to the ownership of any land or other property or the interests of any party in such land or other property before fixing a date for the trial of the issue of just compensation.

C. If the court determines all such issues or other matters involving the jurisdiction of the court in favor of the petitioner, the court shall enter an order fixing a date for the trial of the issue of just compensation and stating that such issue shall be determined either by a commission, by a jury or by the court, as provided in § 25.1-220.

D. An order of the court in favor of the petitioner on any of the foregoing preliminary issues or matters shall not be a final order for purposes of appeal but an order against the petitioner on such issues or matters shall be a final order for purposes of appeal, if the petitioner so elects. If the order against the petitioner does not dismiss the petition, the petitioner may elect to proceed with the case without waiving any of its objections and exceptions to the rulings of the court.

E. At such hearing the court shall also determine whether the petitioner shall be granted a right of entry as provided in § 25.1-223.

1962, c. 426, § 25-46.17; 1991, c. 520; 2000, c. 1029; 2002, c. 272; 2003, c. 940; 2006, c. 586; 2010, c. 835.

§ 25.1-220. Who determines issue of just compensation.

The issue of just compensation shall be determined by a commission or a jury, upon a timely election made by an owner as provided in § 25.1-213. However, by agreement of the petitioner and all the parties who are sui juris that have appeared or responded, or, if no owner upon proper notice has appeared or responded, or has filed an answer and grounds of defense that fails to elect to have the determination of just compensation made by either commissioners or a jury, then, upon motion of the petitioner, the issue of just compensation may be determined by the court.

1962, c. 426, § 25-46.19; 1984, c. 377; 1991, c. 520; 2000, c. 1029; 2003, c. 940; 2006, c. 586; 2010, c. 835.

§ 25.1-221. Consolidation of petitions for trial.

Unless any party demands a separate hearing on the issue of just compensation, the court may consolidate for trial two or more petitions.

1972, c. 169, § 25-46.17:1; 2003, c. 940.

§ 25.1-222. Proceedings not to be delayed by claims with respect to ownership of property.

No delay in the proceeding for the determination of just compensation shall be occasioned by the claims of the parties with respect to the ownership of any land or other property or to the interest therein of the respective parties. In such cases the court shall require the retention of the deposit of the award for the whole property, or the part in dispute, until the rights of the respective parties have been determined in the manner hereinafter provided in § 25.1-241; provided, however, the court shall permit any such claimants to intervene as parties to the proceedings as provided in § 25.1-218.

1962, c. 426, § 25-46.18; 2003, c. 940.