What is Eminent Domain?

If you own a piece of land but do not want to sell it to the city, state or other government body, did you know that they can acquire the property anyway?

This is called eminent domain, or condemnation, which is the supreme power of the government to take private land for public use. However, the government must pay the owner the property’s fair market value prior to taking possession, as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Land is usually acquired this way. However, government may use eminent domain to take other types of property such as office buildings or housing developments. They must show how acquiring the property will benefit the public good.

Generally, state statutes guide how eminent domain power is implemented. In some states, government may not start eminent domain proceedings until all efforts have been exhausted to negotiate with the property owner. In other states, the owner does not even need to be notified before proceedings begin.

It is not unusual for property owners to fight against the government’s actions, mainly in regard to the property’s worth. Real estate appraisers and other expert witnesses usually are asked to testify in court to help settle the case.

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If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.