What is Eminent Domain? Do I have to hand my property over to the government?

The government has the power to seize private property for public use under the authority of eminent domain. However, this doesn’t mean the government can take your land without compensating you for it. In fact, not only does the government have to provide you with “just compensation” you are also given an opportunity to object.

The legal process of eminent domain is known as condemnation and is only used when private property is needed for the greater good, such as the construction of a road or a school or to protect or promote the public health, welfare or safety. A deal for the fair market value of the property is typically offered by the government when private property is needed. If the offer is agreed on by both parties, processing through the court system can be bypassed.

In the event an agreement is not reached, the government will file a court action and post a public notice of the hearing stating that the taking is for public use. The landowner will have an opportunity to object and offer evidence that the government does not need to take the property for the public good or assert an unfair offer was made.

In most states, including Massachusetts, the processes of eminent domain can only be halted if the requirements for public purpose or public necessity are not met. Eminent domain laws and procedures are very complex and usually require the help of an experienced attorney.

It’s important to note that the state of Massachusetts is one of the few whereby private organizations may legally use eminent domain powers granted by the State?  city to seize private property due to failed efforts to put guardrails on the use of eminent domain.

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