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Eminent Domain Attorney in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects a person from being deprived “of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." From this began the widespread use of what is called eminent domain by local, state, and federal government agencies. 

Notice the amendment’s condition that the taking of private property must be for “public use,” which for decades meant roads, parks, schools, and such. In 2005, however, in a case known as Kelo v. New London, the U.S. Supreme Court vastly expanded the concept of public use to include private economic development for projects such as malls or other tax-producing entities. 

The next year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed the Property Rights Protection Act (SB 881) to prohibit the use of eminent domain “to take private property in order to use it for private enterprise.” SB 881 also tightened the concept and use of “blight” in eminent domain condemnation proceedings. Subsequent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions have further tightened restrictions on the use of eminent domain. 

However, if your property or home is being targeted in an eminent domain procedure, these earlier decisions may provide some solace, but you still face the prospect of losing what you own for what is supposed to be “just compensation” when in fact it may be borderline or even less than you could get on the open market. 

If your property in or around Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, is being targeted for eminent domain proceedings and you wish to protect your rights and interest to the fullest extent of the law, contact Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C., for legal assistance. 

We will listen to your story, assess what’s going on, and advise you of your best legal options going forward. We also proudly serve clients throughout Allegheny County and all of the surrounding counties, including Butler, Westmoreland, Beaver, Armstrong, and Washington. 

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What Is Eminent Domain?

As discussed above, eminent domain is the power of the government at any level, local, state, or federal, to acquire privately held property for “public use” purposes so long as they provide “just compensation” for their act. Intellectual property can also be seized through eminent domain if it is deemed in the public interest. Leases, stocks, and investment funds can also be seized. 

Fortunately, Pennsylvania is one of a few states that has moved to restrict governmental entities from using the power of eminent domain for purposes other than public use, for instance, to acquire land for residential development or a local mall, with the eye to increasing tax revenues. 

The Eminent Domain Process

There are various types of eminent domain actions beginning with a complete taking, meaning the entire property is acquired by the government. There can also be partial takings, temporary takings, and regulatory taking. A regulatory taking involves the government changing laws or regulations regarding the property in question, which then can lose all or part of its market value. 

In an eminent domain action, the government will notify the property holder and then generally send out a representative to discuss proper (just) compensation. At the same time, the government entity must file a declaration of taking with the court of common pleas in the county where the condemned property is located. The declaration immediately transfers title to the condemnor, that is, the agency seeking the eminent domain action. 

Even though the condemnor gets an immediate title, they cannot take possession of the property until it pays or agrees to pay estimated just compensation (EJC) to the property owner. The property owner, or condemnee, can file objections within the first 30 days after the filing of the declaration. Those objections will likely proceed to trial. If no objections are filed, then the condemning government entity can take possession on the 60th day after the filing of the declaration. 

In other words, at first news of an eminent domain action through the filing of the declaration, you need to seek legal counsel and follow the advice and directions of your attorney. You definitely need to object to the declaration to keep your rights and options open 

What Is “Inverse Condemnation”?

Condemnation is the main vehicle by which a government agency can seize private property through eminent domain. The use of the term “blight” is often associated with an act of condemnation, though the term was tightened and restricted by the Property Rights Protection Act.  

Inverse condemnation is the legal process used by property owners when a government action damages or decreases the value of their private property. Inverse condemnation can be used when the government fails to protect property owners from damages from wildfires caused by electrical utility failures, or from flooding from a dam that was not properly maintained. 

Eminent Domain Attorney Serving Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

If your private property in or around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is being threatened by an eminent domain action, you need to act quickly. The government entity can get a declaration of taking and title to your property before even discussing compensation. You have 30 days to respond to protect your rights and interests. Contact Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C. if eminent domain looms. We will help you exercise your rights and fight for just compensation.