Most people have a general understanding of the concept of Eminent Domain. However, the knowledge that the government can take your land isn’t all that helpful when you are faced with an imminent taking of your property. Knowing the requirements for a government entity to follow in order to legally condemn property may help you to navigate your real estate issue, and ultimately result in you making the most of an unpleasant situation.What is Eminent Domain? According to the Pennsylvania Constitution, the government is empowered, by virtue of its sovereignty, to condemn private land for public use. This is Eminent Domain. Article 1, Section 10 provides, in pertinent part that “[n]or shall private property be taken or applied to public use, without authority of law and without just compensation being first made or secured.” Public use has been found to include highways, roads, schools, public buildings, and the elimination of blight. Unfortunately, because of the constitutional basis for this power, stopping the taking of land in an eminent domain situation, if it is indeed for public use, is highly unlikely. The bulk of litigation in eminent domain real estate disputes stems from what amount of compensation is just. How long does Eminent Domain take? In the case of Eminent Domain, the condemnor (the party taking the land under Eminent Domain), after determining that a property is needed for a particular plan, may attempt to buy the property in lieu of condemnation. If, however, this attempt is unsuccessful, in order to begin the condemnation proceeding, the government must first file a written declaration of taking and on the same day lodge a notice of the declaration with the Recorder of Deeds. The condemnor has 30 days from that point to provide notice to the property owner of the planned taking. This starts the ball rolling on the property owner’s end because the property owner then has 30 days to challenge the taking. Within 30 days of the notice of taking, the property owner may file preliminary objections or lose the ability to challenge the taking legally. The ability to challenge the taking is also limited by statute in Pennsylvania to the following issues:
- The power or right of the condemnor to appropriate the condemned property unless it has been previously adjudicated.
- The sufficiency of the security.
- The declaration of taking.
- Any other procedure followed by the condemnor.