When you are a homeowner, a farmer, a commercial land owner, or an owner of any type of land, you rightfully believe that you own that land and no one is able to just come and take it away from you. Because of this belief, many landowners are shocked and appalled when they learn that the government is attempting to take their land away to make room for a commercial or public project. If this does ever happen to you, it’s only natural for it to feel wrong and ask: how in the world is this legal?
The truth is that under the letter of the law, there are distinct circumstances where the government has the right to take your property away from you. In the United States Constitution, the 5th amendment states that no “private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” This has been interpreted to mean that the government can in fact legally take your land if the following conditions apply:
- It’s valid for public use
- The government provides you with fair and just compensation
There are many things that can qualify as “public use” for the purpose of eminent domain, some of those purposes include:
- Highway construction or improvement
- Government related buildings
Courts have also found that eminent domain can also be used to reverse blight and to build any commercial developments that will benefits the town and community.
A fair compensation is typically measured by the fair market value of the property that is being taken. There also can be many other factors that are involved in calculating fair value that the landowner deserves. This can include relocation expenses, lost business, and more.