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Property owners angered by eminent domain takings

When the government wants to obtain something on a piece of land privately owned by an individual, company or someone else, they may in some circumstances be able to gain possession of it. As residents of Pennsylvania may or may not be aware, one of the common ways for a state to take ownership of a piece of land or something on it from a property owner is through eminent domain.

The power of eminent domain gives the state the power to acquire privately owned land for public use even if the owner objects to the acquisition. In return for the acquisition, the property owner must be paid the fair market value for the land. However, what happens when the property owners are not paid the just compensation to which they are entitled? This could lead to real estate litigation. Two gas companies based out of Pennsylvania -- EQT Production Corp. and CNX Gas -- are in this very situation with residents of neighboring states.

These two Pennsylvania gas companies are extracting natural gas from the property of landowners in a neighboring state. Many of the landowners did not give their permission for this extraction. However, in this situation, just like many others, government acquisition of private property is still allowable by eminent domain.

The residents are also frustrated, because they are not getting paid the fair market value for their property. A recent investigation looked at approximately 750 active accounts and the results showed that 22 percent to 55 percent of those accounts have not received their fair market value payments that are due under a taking by eminent domain.

Some of these families have taken the matter to court. However, the companies state that they are not accountable for the missed payments. They claim they are paying the states that have initiated the eminent domain takings and, therefore, the states are the ones that are not making the appropriate payments.

As this story shows, a taking by eminent domain can be very frustrating for many reasons. However, it is extremely important that property owners receive the compensation to which they are entitled. If they are not receiving just compensation, there are legal remedies that may help them recover what they are owed.

Source: Fredericksburg.com, "Residents struggle to reap royalties," Cathy Dyson, July 6, 2014

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