It’s nice to think that we’re living the American dream. Some of us have basically “arrived” with the house, the job, the family, the freedom. However, what you may not know is that your property isn’t really yours. If the government wants to come take your house and your land, they can. It’s called eminent domain.
Eminent domain means that the government can seize private property without the owner’s consent. It’s grounded in the 5th Amendment. The owner must receive just compensation and the property must be claimed for public use, but this can be a fairly loose term.
Public use has two different categories: direct public use and private use that benefits the public. Direct public use includes construction of roads and freeways, municipal buildings and schools, and preservation of historic sites. Private use that benefits the public can be for railways, utilities, and renovation of “blighted” sites.
It’s difficult to say how often eminent domain is affecting property owners as most states don’t report its use. However, we do know that in 2020, Texas reported 224 cases of eminent domain being used by the government for private entities. Also, in 2019, Missouri’s Department of Transportation acquired 608 parcels of real property. This resulted in 430 resolutions by negotiation, 178 parcels donated, and 2 requiring a condemnation lawsuit.
Sadly, the enforcement of eminent domain on “blighted” sites can sometimes easily be called abuse of power. The term “blighted” doesn’t appear to adhere to any real definition or parameters. For instance, in Toledo, OH in 1999, the city declared a whole neighborhood of 83 well-maintained homes, and 16 businesses as blighted to make way for a new Chrysler plant. In turn, Chrysler promised to create 5,000 jobs, however, only 2,100 people were hired.
Although the government has the right to take your property, it’s always wise to hire legal counsel should you find yourself under eminent domain. Attorneys can help you navigate the process and to negotiate a better price for your property.
Source: Dallas & Turner, PLLC