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What is eminent domain?

Owning property may feel like more of a privilege, as it takes time and money to obtain real property; however, the ownership of real estate is a right. Residents in Tennessee have the right to life, liberty and property without unreasonable government interference.

In other words, the government cannot prevent or hinder property ownership without just cause or reason. This means that if it is reasonable and justifiable, there can be a government taking of property.

What is eminent domain? This term refers to the power of the government to take private land from its owner for the public use of citizens under certain circumstances. This power falls under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that such a taking cannot occur without reason or just compensation.

When a government taking occurs, it could fall under one of three categories. The first is a complete taking. This is when the government purchases the entire property of an individual. The next is a partial taking, which occurs when only a portion of the property is purchased. This is common for certain construction projects that require the widening of roads, sidewalks and utility wires. The final is a temporary taking. This is when the property is only used for a set time period.

If a private property owner is dealing with an eminent domain issue, it is important that they understand the terms of the taking and what rights they have. It is also imperative that they assess what just compensation means in their situation, ensuring that this is addressed in a fair manner.

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