Fighting Eminent Domain: Know Your Rights Before Giving Up Your Property
From 1998 to 2002, more than 10,000 properties across 41 states faced condemnation — only for the land to be handed to private developers. Eminent domain is grounded in the 5th Amendment and allows the government to seize private property without the owner’s consent. It requires just compensation at the current market value and must be claimed for public use, which includes constructing roads and freeways, municipal buildings and schools, and preservation of historic sites. Private use that benefits the public includes railroads, utilities, and renovation of “blighted” sites.
Most states don’t report the use of the eminent domain, making it difficult to track. Texas reported 224 cases of eminent domain being employed by the government or private entities in 2020, but 5 agencies failed to meet state requirements to report their use of the eminent domain. In 2019, Missouri’s Department of Transportation acquired 608 parcels of property, yet the state reported 54 condemnation filings.
Abuses of eminent domain do occur. In areas where eminent domain is used to obtain property for private developments, residents are more likely to be from racial minorities, lower incomes, and less educated communities. In 2005, in New London, Connecticut, the city’s use of eminent domain to seize property for a private office building was challenged by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court determined that public use could include projects that would “create jobs and increase tax revenues”.
Property owners are rarely successful in stopping the government from taking their land, but that doesn’t mean you’re powerless. When the government wants your land in Kentucky, property owners will receive a notice of intent by mail, an appraiser will assess the size and condition of the property, and a purchase offer is made based on this value. Before accepting an offer, >consult a lawyer for help understanding the process. Most owners are in a good position to negotiate a higher price. If negotiations fail, a condemnation lawsuit will follow, and a jury will determine the amount of compensation owed. Know your rights before you give up your property.