July 02, 2019

When Condemnation Precedes Compensation: Understanding the ‘Quick Take’

Most property owners understand that if the government wants to take their property in an eminent domain proceeding, it is constitutionally required to provide just compensation. But most property owners are surprised to learn that the government can take title to the property and start using it before paying the owner just compensation. This article provides Illinois property owners with a window into that process, called a “quick take.”

In a quick-take proceeding, possession and title pass to the condemning agency before the court determines the amount of just compensation the agency owes to the property owner. The condemning agency must begin an eminent domain action by filing and serving on the property owner a complaint in the circuit court in which the property sits before moving to quick take property.

Under the quick-take procedures, the condemning agency then files a motion with the circuit court asking for: (1) title to the property and the right to take possession and use the property or (2) the right to take possession and use the property, without obtaining title. In both instances, the landowner does not lose its right to receive just compensation for the condemned property. Instead, it delays determining the amount of just compensation until after the transfer of physical access/ownership of the property to the condemning agency.

To protect the property owner, the court holds a hearing in which the property owner can challenge the condemning agency’s right and authority to acquire the property. The court will also determine whether “reasonable necessity” exists for transferring the property via quick-take procedure. If the condemning agency has authority to take the property and there is reasonable necessity for a quick take, the court will make a preliminary finding of just compensation and order the condemning agency to deposit that amount with the county treasurer. This preliminary finding does not preclude a full and fair hearing on the amount of just compensation owed, which happens later in the case.

After depositing the funds, the condemning agency can file its receipt with the court and obtain an order vesting title to the property or granting it access and use. From there, the proceeding continues as a normal eminent domain proceeding to a final determination of just compensation.

The quick-take statutes also govern the proper procedure for the property owner to withdraw funds deposited with the county treasurer. Further, the quick-take statute provides for the payment of interest on the amount deposited, subject to certain conditions and restrictions.

Because the quick-take procedure is prescribed in a statute, courts will scrutinize whether a condemning agency met the statute’s requirements before granting its request. Not every government agency can take advantage of the quick-take procedure, as the statute places limits on the agencies and projects that may take property via quick-take procedures. These limits and carefully crafted procedures provide several avenues under Illinois law for property owners to challenge motions to quick-take their property.

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