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Eminent Domain: What Are Your Rights?

Eminent Domain: What Are Your Rights?


The United States federal government is entitled to take privately owned property through the eminent domain authority. However, the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the rights of individuals from unjust takings. Courts have continuously held that due process of law is required before a person can be deprived of life, liberty, or property. This principle applies when the government exercises their power to take private land. State law also operates under this principle. The Fifth Amendment requires “just compensation” from the government to landowners when the government seizes their land.

So what exactly is eminent domain? It refers to the government’s power to take private property for public use development. This legal process is also referred to as a taking. But as said above, the Fifth Amendment requires just compensation if the government exercises this power. What is just compensation? It is determined by an appraisal of the property’s fair market value. Unfortunately, this means that sentimental or other value an owner may hold with regard to the property, will not be considered in calculating compensation.

Imagine you open your mailbox to find a letter notifying you that the government will be taking your land for a public use development. What do you do and what are your rights? Although the probability of stopping the forced sale of your land is low, you have the right to pursue your just compensation or a fair and full accounting of damages. There will probably be an initial meeting with a project manager which you should attend to collect more information. You usually have approximately thirty days to accept the offer or initiate negotiations. At this point, you should consult a lawyer.

If you enter negotiations, you can explain issues or any factors that justify a higher offer for compensation. So while sentimental or other value an owner may hold will not be applicable, things like aesthetic or agricultural value can be crucial factors in negotiating a higher price. If your property has a tenant, you may be able to negotiate an offer that reflects rental income loss and pays for that tenant’s moving expenses. Keep in mind that projects might continue on schedule, but this should not deter you from pursuing your action for just compensation.

If you are dealing with an eminent domain issue, contact McNeelyLaw today. Call us at 317-825-5110 to talk with an experienced Indiana attorney who can help you navigate your case. This McNeelyLaw LLP publication should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion of any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer on any specific legal questions you may have concerning your situation.

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