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Government takings: What exactly is eminent domain?

As we stress in a recent blog post at the New Jersey Law Office of Rajeh A. Saadeh, the real estate universe is vast.

We note in our October 6 entry that the realm poses "broad and diverse" challenges and opportunities in both the residential and commercial sphere, and is "truly replete with complex and specialized concerns."

One such concern that we duly cite in the above post is the government's power to take private property pursuant to the eminent domain doctrine.

What that means in summary terms is this: Provided that government authorities stake a claim to privately owned property, they must establish that the real estate is needed for a valid public use and that the owner will be adequately paid for its taking.

That right is truly long-tenured, being stated in the U.S. Constitution.

It is also carefully limited therein, with the 5th Amendment stating " … nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

As pointed out in an online overview of eminent domain powers, limits and processes, a government taking often proceeds smoothly and without any troublesome issues. That is, both sides in an eminent domain matter end up happy.

That is not always the case, though, with some property owners having legitimate concerns with the government's attempted exercise of power and its offered price for taking land.

Arguably, the stated conversion does not seemingly relate to a use that benefits the public in any meaningful way at all. Additionally, the price offered by government appraisers might be substantially lower than that which the local market supports. Further still, the government might be acting in a hurried manner that does not provide an affected property owner with due notice or a fair hearing to raise questions and lawful challenges.

In any such case, the landowner can secure timely help from a proven real estate attorney that closely focuses upon the public-use question, a fair price and additionally relevant matters.

The government unquestionably has land-taking powers, but they are far from limitless. Experienced legal counsel can help ensure that fundamental fairness attaches to every aspect of an eminent domain proceeding and that a property owner's legal rights are fully safeguarded and promoted.

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