In the United States, you have the right to own property. What you may not know is that the government also has the right to take private property with certain restrictions and regulations in place. The power is known as eminent domain.

What Is Eminent Domain?

Eminent domain is the government’s power to take possession of any private property. Now, this is not power without restrictions. Private landowners do have rights regarding their land. For instance, the government must pay the landowner fair market value for the property. The government also has to use the land for public benefit.

Who Has Eminent Domain Power?

The federal government, city and county governments have eminent domain power. One of the most common uses of eminent domain is when a city or county needs to run a public road through private land. The federal government may buy and build a highway. For smaller projects, the government may not seize the entirety of someone’s property. Instead, it may buy a small portion for public use.

What Is Condemnation?

Condemnation is another word for when the government uses its power of eminent domain. This is synonymous with taking. It can also be called a forced sale. Some people confuse condemnation with what occurs when a government condemns a house or building because it is unlivable. This is not the same. A condemned building that has been taken by eminent domain can still be in perfect shape.

What Is Fair Market Value?

So, you know that the government can offer you money to purchase your property, but how do you know what is fair? The government will often use an appraiser to figure out the value of your land. The appraiser looks at comparable properties and will decide a fair amount to pay. Of course, the city or county might try to offer a person the lowest possible dollar amount for the property. It can help to have a property lawyer to help you decide whether the offer that you are being given is a fair one. Some lawyers can fight for a better and fairer price for their clients.Eminent domain law can be confusing, particularly if you have never had to deal with the government attempting to seize or purchase your land. To find out more about eminent domain and to exercise your rights, set up a consultation with a real estate lawyer in Allentown, PA, like from Hoegen & Associates, P.C., today.