Eminent domain is a controversial area of the law that has made it into the headlines more lately. It has been called into question on many different occasions, such as with regards to the practice in the context of taking private property for economic development. This controversy came into light after the Florida Supreme Court recently ruled that a local government was within its rights to seize property used for private development. The Court held that there must be a “compelling” reason for taking private property, but found that the taking did not violate the owners rights to enjoy their property at all.
While eminent domain law is certainly a fascinating area of the law, there are some common myths that have been formed about it that need to be dispelled. Chief among these is that it provides for forcibly removing people from their homes. No one ever loses their property by virtue of this law, and in fact, it only ever happens when the government is wrong about how they are enforcing the law. Private property rights simply do not exist in the eyes of the United States Supreme Court or the courts anywhere else. Any so-called “right of property” that the US government may attempt to give to some entity is purely an unalienable privilege that no one ever has to ask for.
Another myth surrounding eminent domain is that it gives the government carte blanche to take any property without regard to any sort of private property rights whatsoever. Absolutely not! Whenever the government takes private property for a public purpose, they must pay for it first in terms of fees, interest and costs. They cannot just simply grab the property without giving anyone a chance to stop them.
Also, note that whenever the government seizes private property, it does not necessarily just end up taking the property. Once the process is complete, the property is usually returned to its original owners (or their heirs). Usually, this is done via a trustee sale. If you do have a legal issue with the way your property was seized, you can file a lawsuit to get it ruled on, and you should be prepared to spend a lot of time and money doing so. It is extremely expensive and time consuming to go through such a process.
Eminent domain is a power of the government, and like all powers of government, it is sometimes abused. There are numerous examples of this abuse, most of which result in a loss of property. In the vast majority of cases, the government is acting in the best interests of the community, and is within its lawful right to do so. If someone is harming you, it is important to understand the laws that govern such actions so that you can seek damages for it.
The bottom line is that if you own a piece of property that you don’t use, perhaps you should sell it. But you should also understand the laws that govern eminent domain, as well as the private property rights that exist. It is both a legal and moral issue and you should be prepared to face it in court if it should arise. If you feel that your rights have been violated in any way, you might be able to take action in court to gain back the property that you have lost.