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What is eminent domain and can it be challenged?

Cities in Tennessee are ever-growing, and as they look to expand roads, install sewers and electrical lines and perform other tasks essential to the proper growth of a city, it may be necessary for them to acquire property owned by private citizens. This right of the government is known as "eminent domain."

It may seem unfair that the government can take private land, but this right is not absolute. First of all, it can only be exercised for public purposes. In addition, if the government must take private property, it must provide the property owner with fair compensation.

The process of eminent domain is called "condemnation." First, the government will decide which pieces of private property it will need. After that, the property will be appraised. Once it is determined what the property is worth, the government will offer the property owner compensation for the property. If the property owner accepts the offer, the property would be sold to the government. If the property owner does not accept the offer, then condemnation proceedings will commence.

In a condemnation proceeding the property owner can present to the government an offer that reflects what he or she believes the property is worth. Oftentimes this takes the help of professionals, such as an appraiser and a lawyer. The property owner is also allowed to contest what the government wants to use the property for and he or she can oppose the forced selling of the property.

However, if the government's intentions for the property is proper, it is nearly impossible to contest it. That being said, the property owner can say that the government is taking too much of the property than what it needs to achieve its purpose. This is because the right of eminent domain is limited to the extent needed to achieve its purpose. The timing of the valuation can also be contested. The government cannot do something that substantially lowers the value of the property.

In the end, while those who are contesting an act of eminent domain are facing an uphill battle, they are not without help. An attorney can assist them throughout the process, with the aim of achieving a fair and appropriate outcome.

Source: FindLaw, "How the Government Takes Property," Accessed Aug. 9, 2017

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