As recently discussed in this blog, there exist protections available to property owners in Pennsylvania and elsewhere when the government seeks to take their property through the eminent domain process. A concern is mounting that across the country more and more property owners are watching their property being taken for private use. The principle of eminent domain in the United States dates back to the 1800s. It allows the government to take private property for a public use. Public uses are commonly highways and railroads but could also include such public uses as post offices.

Based on recent reports, a growing number of local governments are using the government’s power of eminent domain to take private property and build sports complexes, shopping centers and condos. Property owners must receive just compensation when their property is taken but a growing number of challenges to the requirement that the property be taken for public use are afoot. While some argue that eminent domain abuses are growing, the Supreme Court found that an economic benefit to the community could justify a taking and be counted as a public use.

In Pennsylvania, last year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined a 2012 law that allowed the taking of private property for private natural gas projects was unconstitutional. The court found that the underground storage company could not show a benefit to the community beyond job creation, which was not enough. It can be important to understand how to push back when private property is being threatened by a government taking.

When faced with a taking, it is also important for private property owners to be able to assert their rights related to receipt of just compensation for the condemned property, which is generally considered fair market value. Private property rights are important to property owners which is why they should be familiar with how to enforce those rights when they are threatened.

Source: Realtor.com, “Property Snatchers: How Eminent Domain Can Leave You Without a Home,” Joe Gose, April 19, 2017