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Eminent domain: what is a fair price for property?

Pennsylvania property owners may be surprised to one day find the government requiring them to relinquish their property for some sort of public purpose. Per eminent domain laws, the government has the ability to take private land in order to make improvements to streets, install power lines and sewer systems and for other public purposes. This taking is called "condemnation." However, in order to exercise this right, the government must fairly compensate the private individual who owns the property.

When the government determines it will need to take private land to make improvements per eminent domain, it will appraise the property it needs to take in order to come up with an appropriate price, which it will then offer the property owner. If the property owner does not agree on the government's offered price, the issue will be go through the legal process known as a condemnation proceeding. In this type of proceeding, property owners can state what they believe the property is worth and can contest what the government is proposing to do with the property, or the extent to which the intrusion is being made. In general, the government can only exercise its eminent domain rights as much as is necessary to achieve what it needs to do.

There are a number of factors that may be considered when determining how much a piece of property is worth. The size and zoning of the property are two factors. If the property has structures on it or roads that run through it, these are two other factors that may be used to determine its value. What the property is being used for both now and potentially in the future may also be considered. This list is not all-exhaustive; there are other factors that may be considered when placing a value on a piece of property for eminent domain purposes.

It is important for property owners to understand what their rights are when it comes to eminent domain. They deserve just compensation for any land the government takes. However, coming up with a fair price can be complex. Therefore, those who are facing condemnation proceedings may want to discuss their situation with an attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "How the Government Takes Property," accessed Feb. 19, 2017

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