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Relocation damages in eminent domain proceedings

Most Pennsylvania property owners are aware that, if their property is taken by a public agency under the power of eminent domain, they are entitled receive just compensation for their real estate. Just compensation is most often defined as the "fair market value of the property." But what about the expense of relocating a business or a home? Can these expenses be recovered as part of the eminent domain process?

The answer, for both individuals and business owners, is "Yes," but care must be taken to distinguish compensation for the property from reimbursement of moving or relocation expenses. In this post, we will deal only with the latter.

The governmental entity that initiates the eminent domain proceeding is called the acquiring agency. Under Pennsylvania law, all acquiring agencies are required to pay damages for relocation "in a manner which is fair and reasonable, and as uniform as practicable." Persons or businesses that are required to move because of the taking are entitled to recover reasonable expenses incurred in the move. Farms, non-profit organizations, and small businesses are also entitled to recover actual reasonable expenses of re-establishing the enterprise on the new site.

Pennsylvania eminent domain statutes are intended to ensure that persons and businesses whose property is taken under the power of eminent domain receive fair and reasonable compensation for moving expenses as soon as may be reasonable. However, many disputes between the owner and the condemning agency can arise. Anyone who has received a notice of intent to take property may wish to consult a lawyer who specializes in eminent domain cases for an evaluation of the proposed taking, an estimate of fair market value and relocation benefits.

Source: Pennsylvania Uniform Relocation Assistance Act, Penn. Consol. Stat. Ch. 151, accessed on Aug. 22, 2015

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