What is Eminent Domain?
Eminent domain is a process that is allowed and protected by the Fifth Amendment. It occurs when the government or a public or private company allowed by the government takes private property from its owner for public use.
For eminent domain to be legal, the reason for taking the property must be specifically for public use. The owner must also be compensated the value of the property taken. These takings may be physical where the actual property transfers ownership. It may be the full property or only a portion. The taking may also be regulatory where the actual property does not move from the owner to the entity, but new restrictions are imposed which prevent the owner from developing the property. Certain property rights, including water, air and land rights may also be subject to eminent domain.
Some examples of companies that have the right to eminent domain include those establishing water, gas or power lines, telephone lines or other utilities. Another instance is the highway department that must establish a new roadway, expand an existing one or otherwise make changes. Federal, state and local governments may also use the power of eminent domain.
For eminent domain to be a legal process, the property owner must be notified of the intent. They must also be compensated for the fair market value of the property being taken. The actual process of taking a property is referred to as condemnation proceedings, which may involve the court system. When the process is not moved along in a legal way, the property owner has the right to inverse condemnation to seek out recompense for the loss of property. The cases of eminent domain usually involve the amount of compensation rather than the actual taking of the property from the owner.