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For many homeowners, the words eminent domain are capable of causing significant worry and anxiety. While you may have a vague idea that eminent domain allows the government to take property, it is not well-understood by most people who do not have significant legal training.
Here are some basic facts about eminent domain that homeowners should understand. For more information or to discuss a pending eminent domain case, call our office today to schedule a consultation with an attorney.
The first thing that homeowners should understand about eminent domain is that the government cannot take property whenever it sees fit. To exercise the power of eminent domain, the government must do so for a public purpose. In addition, the government is required to provide the homeowner with just compensation for the property.
When people first learn that the government can only use eminent domain for a public purpose, they think of projects like school, hospital, libraries, or road expansions. In reality, however, courts have interpreted the public purpose requirement so broadly that they uphold the overwhelming majority of condemnation actions (the legal name for eminent domain actions). In fact, the Supreme Court of the United States has gone so far as to hold that the government may use eminent domain to transfer property from one private party to another private party for the purposes of economic development.
While the law authorizes the government to use eminent domain to take private property, the government may also delegate this authority to other parties, such as utility companies. This allows gas, electric, telephone, or other utilities to use eminent domain to take or use privately owned land to expand and maintain infrastructure on which the community relies.
Most takings that eminent domain may authorize do not actually involve eminent domain at all. Instead, the party seeking a piece of property approaches the landowner and makes an offer for the property. Eminent domain only comes into play if the landowner refuses to sell; when this occurs, the party seeking the property must file an action to force a sale. Because most eminent domain actions are valid, however, it’s in everyone’s interest to settle out of court, as litigation can consume time and cost money.
Retain an attorney even if your case is going to settle, because a lawyer can ensure that the other party treats you fairly and pays you just compensation for your land.
If you are a homeowner whose property may face an eminent domain action, speak to an experienced attorney as soon as you can. The eminent domain lawyers of Sever Storey have more than 25 years of combined experience and are committed to getting homeowners the just compensation they deserve. To schedule a free case evaluation with an attorney, call our office today at (888) 318-3761 or contact us online.
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