Can I Lose my Property to Eminent Domain?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on May 26, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If the government wants your land, thanks to eminent domain, it can have it.

While we often hear of local governments buying up property to expand roads or build a public facility, the fact of the matter is that these transactions are often involuntary on the part of the landowners. That darn eminent domain can a pesky law for citizens.

Under the Fifth Amendment's "Takings Clause," federal, state and local governments can seize private property if they are doing so for public use and if they provide just compensation.

Under eminent domain jurisprudence, "public use" has been interpreted to mean "public welfare."

In one landmark case, the Supreme Court stated that "public welfare is broad and inclusive" and that it is "physical, aesthetic as well as monetary."

This has been interpreted to permit takings for the purpose of tearing down blighted neighborhoods, building parks and erecting low-cost housing.

The Supreme Court also permits eminent domain to be used to further economic development, meaning that the government can seize your property and transfer it to another non-governmental owner for the purpose of creating jobs and generating tax revenue.

The only saving grace to eminent domain is the fact that, if the government takes your property, it must pay you its market value, usually determined by what the property would sell for at the time of seizure.

Even though it's quite difficult to win an eminent domain case, it's important to hire a lawyer should the government want to seize your property. An attorney will be able to ensure that you receive proper compensation.

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