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When can the government take property under eminent domain?

Landowners in Jackson may have heard of the phrase, "eminent domain," but they may not know exactly what it means. Under the law of eminent domain, the government can take private property for public use only if the property owner is given just compensation in return. The "Takings Clause" of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution serves as the basis for the law of eminent domain.

"Just compensation" is generally based on the market value of the property at issue. The size of the property and whether there are any resources on the property are two factors that may go into calculating the property's market value. If the government is only taking the property for a short amount of time, determining the property's value can be difficult.

In addition, it helps to understand what "public use" means. Of course, direct use by the public -- such as building a new road or park -- constitutes public use. However, the definition expands to anything in which the public generally benefits from. For example, if a derelict building was torn down, this could meet the element of public use, as the public benefits from the beautification of the land.

In the end, the takings clause is a complex area of real estate law. Many people facing eminent domain may be concerned about what this means for them financially. There are processes that must be followed before the government can exercise its power of eminent domain. An appraisal will be conducted to determine an appropriate value for the land. The landowner can accept this offer or dispute it in a condemnation proceeding. However, landowners whose property is being subjected to eminent domain may want to seek professional guidance, so they can understand what their rights are in such situations.

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Spragins, Barnett & Cobb, PLC
312 East Lafayette
Jackson, TN 38301

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