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What is eminent domain?

It can take a long time to find the right piece of real estate. You may then invest considerable sums of money and a lot of time and effort in adapting it to your needs. Hence, whether you use it for commercial or residential purposes, it can come as a hammer blow to find out the government intends to take it off you.

Eminent domain law permits the local or federal governments to issue compulsory purchase orders for specified tracts of land they deem necessary. Typically they do this when they want to clear the way for a project of major local or national significance. The theory is that sometimes the common good has to override individual interests. Examples could include making way for a new road, rail line or power plant.

Even if you agree that the proposed project is crucial, you might be unhappy about the money offered. What is just another bit of land to the government could represent so much more to you. Even if you could set up your business elsewhere, the location might never be as good, and rebuilding could take considerable time.

You typically have two options

When you’re faced with an eminent domain action, you generally can go two routes:

  • Try and argue against the necessity of the project or the necessity of routing it through your land.
  • Try and argue for a better price.

In both cases, consider engaging your neighbors, as together, your voice will be stronger than if you try to take on the government alone. Legal help will also be crucial. You will be going up against an entity that expects to get its way. Understanding all options to challenge them will raise the chance of protecting your real estate or getting a price you can accept.