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What can you do if you’re threatened with eminent domain?

For most homeowners, it’s a nightmare scenario. After working hard to buy your home, diligently making your mortgage payments and tailoring the space to your needs and comforts, it’s suddenly taken away from you by the government via eminent domain.

It’s the right of the government to obtain private property and then repurpose it for public use, but per the Fifth Amendment, in the invocation of eminent domain the owner must receive “just compensation.” While some form of payment is constitutionally yours, you also have the option to seek more compensation, or to fight it altogether. Opposing eminent domain can be difficult, but in the face of such an occasion, there are options available to you.

Get an appraiser of your own

The government will appraise your home in order to determine just compensation. Ideally, all appraisals are without bias, but it’s in your best interests to conduct an appraisal of your own. Having two appraisals can give way to negotiation, which could result in you getting a higher compensation figure. A second appraisal could also be helpful in the event that you go to court.

Choose to accept, or choose to fight

If you’ve deemed the government’s offer to be a fair deal, you can choose to accept it. This will save you on some on legal costs, but you should still consult with a professional to be sure that you’re not being low-balled. Getting low compensation in the short-term could sting you in the long run, as the costs of relocation can be significant.

You can also fight for a better payment. If the appraisals are incongruous and negotiations have hit a standstill, the option is there to pursue litigation. It’s important, however, to have a good understanding of your home’s market value. If your neighborhood is seeing declining property values and the government knows it, they could drag their heels on mounting an opposition, knowing that they could pay less down the road.

It is possible to challenge the government’s definition of public use and stop your property’s taking altogether, but it’s no easy task. The government has significant precedent on their side, and they’re aware of public scrutiny to such an extent that instances of potential abuse are rare.

Seek the counsel of an experienced attorney

As soon as you have inkling that your property could be taken by the government for public use, you should consult with an attorney. Eminent domain is a complex process that not every lawyer is equipped to handle, so it’s important to seek counsel that specifically has experience in this area. In order to best protect yourself and your property, it may prove crucial to have an expert to assist you in navigating what can be very complicated legal proceedings.

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