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What is eminent domain?
Eminent domain1 is the power of the government to take a private property for public use, so long as the person who owned the property is provided just compensation. In practice, eminent domain tends to be used for the acquisition of land for various types of development projects.
What constitutes a public use?
Through decades of case law, the idea of “public use” has been expanded significantly. In fact, many landowners are surprised to learn that a private development can be deemed a public use if it will improve the local economy or generate additional tax revenue. As a result, eminent domain can be used for projects as varied as the expansion of roads, schools, courthouses, and other purely public projects, but may also be used if private developers want to build new housing, commercial space, or engage in the extraction or transport of natural resources.
How is just compensation determined?
Generally speaking, the starting point for the determination of just compensation is the fair market value2 of the property, which is the amount a buyer would pay for the property if neither the buyer nor the seller was under any compulsion to make a transaction. In addition to the fair market value, just compensation may be influenced by any future uses of the land that may increase its value.
Do I need an attorney if my land may be subject to an eminent domain taking?
Landowners are certainly free to negotiate eminent domain matters without the assistance of an attorney, but it is important to be aware that unrepresented parties are often offered significantly less for their property than people who have retained legal counsel. An attorney familiar with eminent domain law will be able to assess the value of your property and advocate for increased compensation, should your circumstances justify it.
Landowners who believe that their property may be subject to an eminent domain action should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced eminent domain lawyer, call Sever Storey, LLP today at 888-318-3761 or send us an email through our online contact form.
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