The Superior Court of New Jersey has ruled that a property owner that withdraws the “estimated just compensation” deposited into court waives its right to challenge the condemnation.
In Township of Piscataway v. South Washington Ave., LLC., the Township of Piscataway condemned a 75 acre farm to preserve it for open space. In New Jersey, condemnors initiate a condemnation action by filing a complaint and also file a “declaration of taking” either at the time the complaint is filed or some time thereafter. In this case, the property owners challenged the condemnation when the Township filed its complaint. While that challenge was pending, the Township filed its declaration of taking and deposited its estimate of the fair market value of the property – known as “estimated just compensation” or “EJC” – into court. The property owners withdrew the money but continued the challenge to the condemnation.
The New Jersey Superior Court held that a condemnee who withdraws the EJC funds is barred from asserting any other than those relating to the amount of compensation owed to the condemnee. The Court explained that “having accepted the benefit” of the funds, the condemnee cannot now challenge the taking.