Common Myths Regarding Eminent Domain

Property owners often fear the power of eminent domain, in which the government can seize private property in order to complete a public project. Understandably, the very idea strikes fear into the hearts of homeowners and landlords alike, but there are many myths wrongfully attached to eminent domain, such as:

The government can pay whatever they want for the property. Naturally, the government will indeed try to negotiate the lowest price possible for a property. But luckily, U.S. law requires both state and federal government agencies to pay current market value for that property. A knowledgeable real estate attorney can help property owners protect their rights and negotiate the absolute best price possible.

Holding out for a higher price is better than settling. While hiring an experienced real estate attorney can certainly help homeowners get a better price on their property, there is a limit to all negotiations. When the process drags and the homeowner holds out for just a bit more money, that profit may be lost due to the continuing cost of litigation. Sometimes it is better to settle for a fair price rather than attempting to squeeze every dollar out of the situation.

The government is required to pay for interference with a private property. When a public structure or road is constructed near private properties, some disturbance may result for nearby property owners. Whether or not the property owners are due compensation from the government depends upon the nature of the disturbance. For example, altered traffic patterns, although annoying to residents, probably don’t qualify for compensation. On the other hand, if construction contributes to a landslide or flooding, private property owners probably have a good case for compensation. Consultation with a real estate attorney can help property owners sort through their legal options.

Government agencies and local governments can use the power of eminent domain in any manner they choose. Fortunately, state agencies and local government officials cannot exercise eminent domain on a whim, but only in circumstances specifically allowed and described by law.


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