Eminent Domain – What Does it Mean?

eminent domainEminent domain, broadly understood, is the government’s right to take private property for public use, even without the owner’s consent.

The most common uses of property taken by eminent domain are public facilities, highways and railroads.

As of public use, it means:

  • available to the entire public
  • needs of society (schools, hospitals, highways)

Nowadays, the meaning of public use is beginning to be broadened to public benefit, which means that property may be transferred to a private owner for the purpose of economic development, which in its turn can create new jobs, revitalize a depressed urban area, thereby it can be qualified as a public use.

Are the owners of condemned properties compensated?

The Fifth Amendment to the  U.S. Constitution states that:


So, anyone whose property is acquired does receive compensation.

Just Compensation means the full monetary equivalent for the property taken.

Eminent Domain Process

The government’s taking of private property is referred to as condemnation. eminent-domain

Condemnation – act of exercising power of eminent domain indicating that the government is taking ownership of the property, whereby the property is regarded legally unfit for its further existence.

When the government uses eminent domain to take your property, it must appraise it to determine fair compensation and make the offer. You have a choice to accept or decline the offer. If you believe that the compensation is not just, you can decline the offer and file a lawsuit against the government agency. However, that does not mean that you are entitled to keep your property! The government can still force the taking. The initially offered sum of money would be deposited in a trust account, for a time of trial.

Property that CAN’T be condemned:

  • orchards and gardens;
  • factories;
  • cemeteries.

If your private property is being taken by eminent domain, you should contact a qualified land use attorney who can help you present your opinions of what constitutes just and adequate compensation, or prove that government is not taking it for a legitimate public use, or just inform you about applicable laws in your area and possible alternatives to eminent domain. To locate a good and experienced land lawyer may seem very difficult, but Legal Bistro is here to help you. It is an online legal services community that helps you to find the right lawyer for your case!

To get much more detailed information about eminent domain, land use, taking types check out our video:

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