What Is Eminent Domain?

State, local, and federal governments often need access to land to build roads, government buildings, parks, water supply structures, and so on. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments allow the government to take private property inasmuch as they meet the following two requirements:

  • The owner of the property is given just compensation
  • The property is used for public purposes (such as those described above)

When the government takes property under the clauses in these amendments, it is referred to as “eminent domain.”

Types of Eminent Domain

There are different types of property taking under eminent domain. These include the following:

  • Complete taking – the government purchases the entire property
  • Partial taking – the government purchases only a part of the property
  • Temporary – the government only needs to use the property for a certain time period

In addition, the taking of private property may not necessarily refer to the purchase of a piece or parcel of land, but could also include any government action that impacts the property. For instance, the construction of a government building outside of a privately owned piece of commercial land could impact the way that property is used or in some way reduce its value.

The Eminent Domain Process

The government has to follow a certain process in order to take private property under eminent domain. Before taking anyone’s property, an announcement is made detailing the project and any properties that may be affected. They appoint a government employee to handle questions and requests concerning the matter.

The government must then inspect the properties to be impacted and offer the owners due compensation. The owner can accept or reject this offer. If they accept, the property is turned over to the government. If they do not, then negotiations ensue.

Contesting Eminent Domain

If you reject the offer made by the government, there are a few possibilities. If you rejected it on the basis of the amount offered, it may be possible to negotiate a higher amount. This is best done with legal representation. Your attorney will get an appraiser to evaluate your property and determine how much you are owed for it.

If settlement negotiations aren’t successful, the case is taken to court. During these proceedings, the court will determine how much compensation you’re owed for the property. In some cases, your attorney’s fees will be reimbursed by the government, but it depends on the purposes for their taking your property in the first place.

Seeking Legal Representation

Throughout this process, you need an attorney to represent you. Illinois law favors government bodies in this area, and while some reforms have been passed in the last decade or so, but it’s still too easy for the government to take private property for uses that may stretch the “public usage” requirements.

That said, it is possible to get a fair settlement amount, but only with legal representation. Thorough property value assessment is key, and your attorney can help you with that process. The real estate attorneys at Hart David Carson LLP can assist you with property valuations and other matters related to real estate law.

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