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Eminent domain and the property rights of Massachusetts residents

As a Massachusetts property owner, you may find it useful to consider the various factors that can impact how you use your land. It may come as a surprise to you to learn that there are circumstances in which the government can actually take your land. This is eminent domain, and it can be helpful to learn how you can shield your interests. 

Eminent domain refers to the government's ability to take privately owned property. There are limited circumstances in which this is possible, and the government's right to do this is outlined in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This specific Amendment prohibits the taking of private land without appropriately compensating the landowner for what he or she will lose. 

Is your property at risk?

You may assume that there is no reason a government entity would ever want your land, but any property owner will want to know how to proceed in case eminent domain ever becomes an issue. Situations in which the government may move to acquire a privately owned portion of land includes needing to build a sidewalk for public use, needing land for government buildings or needing property to run utility lines. 

There are three types of taking, which is what happens when the government moves to take property. They include:

  • Partial taking, which means only a portion of the entire property is needed
  • Temporary taking, which means the government only needs the property for a limited period of time
  • Complete taking, which is when the government requires the entire parcel of privately owned land 

In the event that the government needs to take land, it typically starts with the effort to buy the land from the property owner. If the property owner will not accept the amount offered, it may be necessary to go to court in order to get a fair price for the land. 

Your rights as a property owner 

You may feel there is nothing you can do to protect your rights when the government wants your land. However, there are certain steps you can take to ensure that you get a fair price for what you own. Eminent domain is a legally complex issue, but you do not have to navigate it on your own. 

If you want to know how to protect what you own or how to proceed when offered a price for your land, it can be beneficial to discuss your concerns with a land use and property rights attorney.

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