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3 FAQs on eminent domain and just compensation

"Eminent domain" is one of those terms you hear in your high school government class and hope you never hear again.

Getting notice that the government is going to take all or part of your property can be confusing and intimidating. It comes with a whole set of terms that seem designed to trick you.

Here are a few FAQs on eminent domain and just compensation.

What is eminent domain?

Also known as "condemnation" (not to be confused with a property being condemned because it was not properly maintained), eminent domain comes from a provision in the Constitution that allows the "taking" of private property for public use.

The taking might be all of the property or part of the property. It could also be an easement on, over (such as power lines) or under (such as gas lines) the property.

Who can use eminent domain to take a property?

Typically, public utilities and government agencies are the groups that can initiate a taking and it will be for things like roadways or public utilities.

What is "just compensation"?

When the government or a public utility initiates a taking, they will offer "just compensation" in return. Typically, just compensation will mean "fair market value." A term that is almost as ambiguous as just compensation.

There are a variety of factors that contribute to the determination of the value of the property, including: level of development, size and zoning.

There are several approaches to determining the value of the property including how much neighboring properties have recently sold for and/or how much income the property generates.

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