A. Before entering upon or taking possession of land pursuant to § 33.2-1018, the Commissioner of Highways shall either:
1. Pay into the court wherein condemnation proceedings are pending or are to be instituted such sum as is required by subsection B; or
2. File with the court wherein condemnation proceedings are pending or are to be instituted a certificate of deposit issued by the Commissioner of Highways for such sum as is required by subsection B, which shall be deemed and held for the purpose of this chapter to be payment into the custody of such court.
B. The amount to be paid into the court as provided in subdivision A 1 or represented by a certificate of deposit as provided in subdivision A 2 shall be the amount that the Commissioner of Highways estimates to be the fair value of the land taken, or interest therein sought, and damage done, which estimate shall be based on a bona fide appraisal if required by § 25.1-417; however, such estimate shall not be less than the current assessed value of the land 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changed in a material and substantial way since the current assessment date such that the real estate tax assessment no longer represents a fair valuation of the property, when the entire parcel for which the assessment has been made is to be acquired.
C. If the Commissioner of Highways makes a payment into court as provided in subdivision A 1, the court shall also record a certificate of take pursuant to § 33.2-1021.
D. Payment against a certificate of deposit, when ordered by the court named therein, shall be paid by the Commissioner of Highways.
E. The Commissioner of Highways shall not be permitted to force relocation on improved owner-occupied property until the owner is permitted to withdraw the funds represented by the certificate filed with the court. However, if the owner refuses to withdraw the funds represented by the certificate filed with the court or if the Commissioner of Highways reasonably believes that the owner does not possess clear title to the property being taken, that ownership of the property is disputed, or that certain owners cannot be located, the Commissioner of Highways may petition the court to establish that the owner does not possess clear title, that the ownership of the property is in dispute, that certain owners cannot be located, or that the owner has refused to withdraw the funds represented by the certificate filed with the court, and request that the Commissioner of Highways be given authority to force relocation.
F. Nothing in this section shall make evidence of tax assessments admissible as proof of value in an eminent domain proceeding.
Code 1950, § 33-70.2; 1958, c. 581; 1970, cc. 322, 684, § 33.1-120; 2003, c. 940; 2004, c. 803; 2013, c. 764; 2014, c. 805.