Eminent Domain Laws in Pennsylvania

Imagine this: You’ve lived in your home with a lot of acreage for years. But then, the government steps in offering you a financial deal to give up your land for public use. While no one wants to see the family farm or homestead become a strip-mall, this is actually a legal power for the Keystone state.

Under Pennsylvania law, eminent domain is the “power of the Commonwealth to take private property for public use in return for just compensation.” While legally the government can do it, does this mean you have no say? The Scranton real estate attorneys of Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano know you have concerns about your rights if you become subject to eminent domain. We can help.

Why is a private landowner made to give up property for a buyer? — Public Use Policy

The common question in cases of eminent domain is why would anyone be forced to give up their private property because the government says it can happen? The answer is the public use policy.

Under the Just Compensation Clause, private property can only be taken for public use and for no other reason alone–not even with compensation for the land. This means that a private party cannot take land to live on it. Instead, the condemnor must show that the property will be devoted to public or civic use including economic development.

The most common uses of eminent domain include government buildings and facilities, public utility services, highways, and railroads.

What is the Eminent Domain process?

Eminent domain proceedings are a delicate process with many caveats to its success. In general, the eminent domain process begins when the condemnor, or acquiring agency, files a notice with the Office of Prothonotary in the county where the property is located. From there, the landowner, known as the condemnee, is given the notice of what the land is intended to be used for, and authorization of such acquisition.

Upon receipt of the notice, the landowner has 30 days to object to the taking of the property. The objection must include one of the following:

  • Did the condemnor have a right to condemn the property;
  • Was there a sufficiency of the security posted;
  • Was the declaration of taking just; or
  • Any issues with the way other procedures were followed by the condemning authority.

However, failure to object to the condemnation, or if the court overrules the property owners’ objections, the court will appoint a panel to assess the property for fair market value to be paid by the condemnor to the condemnee.

Next, the condemnor and condemnee can negotiate the price. If an agreement is not made, the panel will then conduct a hearing where evidence will be presented by both parties on their views of the property’s worth. After the hearing, the panel will determine what the fair market value of the land is, providing the landowner with the just compensation that is required by state and federal statutes.

Eminent Domain Abuse

If you suspect that the taking of your property goes against provisions of the 5th Amendment and the Just Compensation Clause, you may have a case of eminent domain abuse. You must be justly compensated and the land must be used for public benefit. If it’s not or you suspect the condemnee is low-balling your property’s worth, you need a real estate attorney to fight on your behalf. Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano can help.

Eminent Domain in PA: Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano

The government may have a right to take your property for public benefit. But they don’t have a right to short-change you on its worth. If you feel as though you are a victim of eminent domain abuse in Pennsylvania, you need the protection and guidance of Scranton real estate attorneys Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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