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Eminent domain: What you need to know

Eminent domain is a topic you should learn more about if you're interested in owning property that has the potential to be used for public purposes. Eminent domain refers to a law that gives the government the right to take over private land for public uses so long as the government provides fair compensation to the owner of that property. The process of taking private property from citizens for the benefit of the public is called condemnation.

The government may take property for several reasons. For example, it may plan to expand a highway or to improve public roadways. Regardless of the reason, if it's to better the public area, the government can use eminent domain to take property.

How does the government decide how much to pay landowners?

The government decides on how much to pay based on working with its own appraisers. Once the government has an estimate of how much the property is worth, it will offer the landowner a price for the property. The property owner has the right to agree or to reject that offer. If there isn't the ability to settle on a fair price, then condemnation proceedings take place.

During condemnation proceedings, the owner offers their own valuation of the property after working with an attorney and appraiser. If the property owner does not want to sell the land and opposes the government's use of their land, they may oppose the sale by contesting the proposed use.

If you are given an offer from the government to use your land, don't accept it without verifying your rights. You may be able to get more compensation or stop the government from using your land.

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