How Does Eminent Domain Work?

Eminent domain can be a complex process, especially for individual homeowners or business owners that are facing condemnation. However, with a trusted municipal law attorney by your side, this process can be a streamlined experience.

Let’s review how eminent domain works and what your rights are during this process.

What is eminent domain?

Eminent domain is the legal acquisition of private property by a local government. It can also be known as condemnation since a government entity will need to “condemn” properties through eminent domain to seize property from owners. However, government entities can only implement eminent domain if they plan to use the land for public use like highways, pipelines, or other public systems.

You have the fifth amendment to thank for the eminent domain clause. The amendment tried to balance the needs of the public with a property owner’s rights. It states “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Essentially, the government can’t take private property without properly paying the owner.

What is the process of condemnation?

The condemnation process is different for each state, so it’s important to consult with experienced municipal lawyers in your jurisdiction to ensure a smooth experience.

Ultimately, most eminent domain claims follow a similar process:

  • The condemner (usually a government entity) will recognize that it needs to acquire private property to build a public project.
  • The condemner will notify the private property owners that they want to acquire the land for public use and make an offer of compensation. This often sets off a negotiation process.
  • If negotiations fail, the matter goes through the court system to settle just compensation for the private property owner.

What is considered just compensation for eminent domain?

Usually just compensation is the value of the property. But it can also include damages for the value of any remaining property. For example, you could receive compensation if the condemnation means that you don’t have access to your remaining property.

This is why it’s important to have an experienced eminent domain lawyer on your side. A lawyer can help you negotiate with the governmental entity to receive fair compensation for your property and any possible injury to remaining property.

What happens if you refuse eminent domain?

In most cases, it’s usually difficult to refuse eminent domain. A government is within its rights to implement eminent domain to seize your property for public use if certain conditions are met. If you decline a compensation offer, the condemner may take the issue to court to try to enforce their rights. Unless you can prove that the condemner isn’t going to use the property for public use, it’s very unlikely that you will win your case.

However, if you feel like you’re not getting just compensation for your private property, you can negotiate with the condemner to receive fair payment.

Are you facing eminent domain condemnation in Lebanon, PA?

Henry and Beaver has an experienced law team that can help you with your municipal issues, including condemnation via eminent domain. We can represent individual homeowners and business owners in their case for just compensation. We are dedicated to ensuring that clients receive fair market value for land and buildings and fair compensation for the loss, relocation, or disruption of a business.

We’ve served the Lebanon Valley since 1895, and we have strong ties to the community.

For trusted counsel on your municipal issue, please contact us at 717-274-3644 or fill out our online form. We look forward to representing you.