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Navigating issues of eminent domain

Many people in the Philadelphia area do not realize that state and local governments have the power to demand a private citizen turn over his or her land so that the government can put it to a public use. When a government employee does come knocking on a person's door demanding the sale of the person's property, a Pennsylvania resident may have no idea what rights she has or where to turn for help.

Our law office has over the years represented Pennsylvania residents, as well as some people who live on the Jersey side of the Philadelphia suburbs, in their disputes with a government body when the government attempts to exercise eminent domain. In some cases, we are able to fight to government's action, since, after all, the right of the government to take private property is not absolute. For example, a government cannot act as a mere conduit for getting a piece of property in to the hands of private developers just because the government thinks that would be good for the economy.

Most of the time, however, the government has a right to take private property, no matter how inconvenienced the owner may be. On the other hand, the owner has a right to receive from the government just compensation, or, in other words, compensation that covers the fair market value of the property being seized.

Sometimes, there can be a dispute about what constitutes fair market value, as the government's appraiser may provide a report that is skewed or flawed. When this happens, our legal team will work to obtain a reliable valuation of the property and expose the errors in the government's case.

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