Why can the government seize my property for its own use?

Sometimes the government’s interests clash with a homeowner’s interests. The government has the right to take private property for public use, a power known as “eminent domain.”

It may seem unfair that the government can take part of your land. However, to exercise its power of eminent domain, the government must pay property owners “just compensation.”

Eminent domain and the Fifth Amendment

You can find the right of eminent domain in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. The takings process is referred to as “condemnation” proceedings. Through condemnation, the property owner has the change to challenge the taking. In addition, the fair market value of the property being seized is settled.

Two types of takings

If the government seizes your entire property, this is known as a complete taking. It is often the case that homeowners do not feel they received just compensation in a complete taking, even if they received the highest market value for their land. Generally complete takings are only needed for large projects in which the homeowner’s entire property is needed.

Partial takings, on the other hand, are government seizures of only a part of your property. Valuing a partial taking is more complex than valuing a complete taking, since it is easier to assign a value to the whole property compared to trying to value part of it.

In a partial taking, two valuations will be considered. First is the value of what was actually taken. Second is the loss value of the remaining property. This two-value approach recognizes that a partial taking can lower the value of the remaining property that was not taken.

Just compensation

If the government is taking your property, you will be awarded just compensation. The government will determine the value of your property and offer you what they deem to be the fair market value of your property.

Fair market value is assessed as if you were selling your property of your own free will and someone was buying your property of their own free will. There are some factors to consider when determining fair market value, such as land improvements and residual damages.

Eminent domain does not always seem fair. If you suspect the government is abusing its eminent domain rights, you can discuss your situation with a legal professional who can assess the situation and advise you appropriately.


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