Imagine this: You’ve lived in your home with a lot of acreage for years. But then, the government steps in offering you a financial deal to give up your land for public use. While no one wants to see the family farm become a strip mall, this is within the legal power of the Keystone State because of eminent domain.
Under Pennsylvania law, eminent domain is the “power of the Commonwealth to take private property for public use in return for just compensation.” While legally the government can do it, does this mean you have no say? The Scranton real estate attorneys of Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam know you have concerns about your rights if you become subject to eminent domain. We can help.
The common question in cases of eminent domain is why can a buyer force someone to give up their private property? How can the government allow this? The answer is the public use policy.
Under the Just Compensation Clause, any land someone loses by eminent domain has to be for public use. The land cannot be used for any other reason–not even with compensation for the land. This means that a private party cannot take land to live on it. Instead, the condemnor must show that the property will only be for public or civic use, including economic development.
The most common uses of eminent domain include government buildings and facilities, public utility services, highways, and railroads.
neral, the eminent domain process begins when the condemnor, or acquiring agency, files a notice with the Office of Prothonotary in the county where the property is located. From there, the landowner, known as the condemnee, is given the notice. The notice has what the land is for and authorization of the acquisition.
Upon receipt of the notice, the landowner has 30 days to object to the taking of the property. The objection must include one of the following:
However, the court may still appoint a panel to assess the property for fair market value. They will do this for two reasons:
Next, the condemnor and condemnee can negotiate the price. If an agreement is not made, the panel will then conduct a hearing. This is when and where both parties will present their reasonings for the property’s worth. After the hearing, the panel will determine what the fair market value of the land is. Then they will provide the landowner with the just compensation state and federal statutes require the condemnor to pay.
If you suspect that the taking of your property goes against provisions of the 5th Amendment and the Just Compensation Clause, you may have a case of eminent domain abuse. You must be justly compensated and the land must be used for public benefit. If it’s not, or you suspect the condemnee is lowballing your property’s worth, you need a real estate attorney to fight on your behalf. Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam can help.
The government may have a right to take your property for public benefit. But they don’t have a right to short-change you on its worth. If you feel as though you are a victim of eminent domain abuse in Pennsylvania, you need the protection and guidance of Scranton real estate attorneys Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam. Contact us today for a free consultation.
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