Flaherty Fardo have significant experience in litigating eminent domain cases in Pennsylvania. Our attorneys have experience with cases filed by both the state and local governments. Our job is to always first examine the taking to see if it can be prevented. When it can not, or if our client is focused on just compensation, we are committed to maximizing the compensation for our clients.
Eminent Domain is the power of the government to take private property for public use. This real estate is then typically used for government highways, railways, utilities and/or other government facilities. However, the purpose of Eminent Domain has also included the right of the government to authorize private parties or corporations to take property when the property will be taken for some public or civic use or, in some cases, even economic development.
Most people believe that Eminent Domain originated from the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Fifth Amendment, also known as “The Takings Clause” reads in part, “…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
However, what most people do not know is that the Fifth Amendment actually limited the scope of Eminent Domain. The Fifth Amendment added the provisions that the taking must be for “public use” and “just compensation” must be paid.
Just compensation has been consistently defined as synonymous with fair market value. Fair market value is the price at which a fully informed motivated seller and a fully informed motivated buyer agree on as a purchase price, without either one being pressured. It is a central feature of all arms-length real estate transactions.
The Just Compensation element of Eminent Domain is often the most litigated issue in these types of cases because it does not take into account a property owner’s desire to sell, nor does it take into account the difficulties of certain businesses being able to relocate.
Pennsylvania Eminent Domain is governed in part by 26 Pa. C.S.A. Section 703 which states:
Fair market value shall be the price which would be agreed to by a willing and informed seller and buyer, taking into consideration but not limited to the following factors:
Pennsylvania also allows limited reimbursement of other fees incurred as outlined by 26 Pa.C.S.A.710. This section of the Pennsylvania Eminent Domain code allows limited reimbursement (up to $4,000.00) for appraisal, attorney and engineering fees.
The most important thing you need to know about Eminent Domain in Pennsylvania is that you MUST file preliminary objections to the taking within 30 days or your property will be lost forever.
The government initiates Eminent Domain by filing a legal document titled Declaration Of Taking. Once that document is filed with the courts and served by certified mail on the property owner or their agent, there is only a 30 day window to try to stop the taking.
Even if the government is taking the property for illegitimate purposes or took more property than what was needed, the 30 days deadline to object is a firm deadline.
Therefore, the first thing every property owner who is notified about a taking of their property should do is contact an attorney to discuss immediately filing timely preliminary objections.
Flaherty Fardo are both real estate attorneys and trial attorneys and experienced advocates for property owners facing the nightmare of Eminent Domain.
Many Eminent Domain cases actually go to trial and it is important to hire attorneys who are familiar with both real estate issues and the courtroom if the government is trying to take your property.