When England drafted the Magna Carta in 1215, it required the crown to make immediate cash payments for any land it took over.
Here in the states, we have a similar system: eminent domain. Under the law, if the government wants to seize private land, it needs to provide “just compensation.”
That doesn’t mean anyone looks forward to having their land taken away. In fact, the words “eminent domain” strike fear into the hearts of most property owners.
If your property is in the path of a government project, a real estate attorney in Bucks County can help. In the meantime, here is what you need to know about eminent domain.
It’s in the Constitution
Eminent domain is covered by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. It gives the government the right to take private property for public use in exchange for just compensation.
The Kelo decision
Seizing property has gotten a lot easier in the past few years, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 ruling in Kelo vs. The City of New London.
In that case, a woman named Susette Kelo and her neighbors sued New London, Connecticut, arguing the city had abused its power in seizing their homes so that the drug company Pfizer could build new headquarters on the land.
The fight made its way to the Supreme Court, which sided with New London and ruled that private property could be seized for private use. Before this decision, government bodies needed to show their seizures had were serving a public good before condemning private land.
Few people fight eminent domain
Pennsylvania’s state legislature, responding to the Kelo ruling, put new rules in place to protect against the misuse of eminent domain powers and the give property owners added protection.
Still, ask any real estate attorney in Bucks County and they’ll tell you that Pennsylvania has seen its fair share of eminent domain seizures in the last 25 years, acquiring thousands upon thousands of properties. In Philadelphia alone, more than 4,000 deeds were taken between 1992 and 2007.
Only a small fraction of those property owners challenged the move. It’s important for property owners to recognize this fact, and to seek out a real estate attorney in Bucks County who has experience in land use law as soon as possible.