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Eminent domain: Are you familiar with the term or process?

The often-referenced "founders" of American independence, noted as the architects of our government framework, institutions and highest legal principles, held the notion of property in singularly high regard.

That is, they perceived it as being of central importance to the country's stability and growth, thus recognizing an owner's right to hold and safeguard it against interference from third parties.

Notably, and since the inception of the U.S. Constitution, such third parties have included government officials, agencies and other bodies -- at the municipal, state and federal level -- that seek to take the property of an individual outright or, alternatively, take actions that reduce its value and essentially work as a taking.

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states that no person shall be deprived of property "without due process of law," and that property can never taken by the government for public use "without just compensation."

The term "eminent domain" frequently arises in the context of any government notification concerning an intent to take property, signifying by its terms an expansive right to act.

That right, though (as noted above) is balanced by a property owner's corresponding rights, which can be cited and promoted aggressively in any takings matter by a real estate attorney with proven acumen in eminent domain matters.

Experienced counsel will closely examine every relevant facet of a takings matter. In doing so, the following questions will often immediately arise.

Is property being demanded for a legitimate public use? Is the "just compensation" offered by the government truly a reasonable estimate of a property's worth? Has a property owner been afforded a reasonable amount of time to consider a government offer and to solicit help from an attorney? And, provided that a property owner has questions or concerns, has he or she been given a chance to fully express them at a public hearing?

The right to challenge eminent domain is a bedrock legal principle in the United States, being seen as a fundamental check on unreasonable government action. An experienced real estate attorney can help a property owner ensure that legal protections in a takings matter are fully cited and insisted upon.

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