Sometimes the United States government needs to take a person’s land or other private property so the property can be used for a public purpose. In exchange for doing so, the government will pay the property owner just compensation. The government’s power to take land is called the power of eminent domain, and it can be found in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It is important for property owners in Tennessee and elsewhere to have a basic understanding of this power and what their rights are when faced with it.
When the government exercises its power of eminent domain, the property owner has a right to a condemnation proceeding. In this proceeding, the property owner can dispute the taking and determine the fair market value of the property. Eminent domain covers not only land, but also the airspace, water, rocks and timber on one’s property.
What constitutes a public purpose is broad. Roads, public buildings, airport expansions or any other project undertaken for beautification or revitalization purposes may be covered by eminent domain. However, some states have passed legislation aimed at protecting property owners from takings that would constitute an abuse of power.
Eminent domain is a broad government power, but it is not without limits. Property owners still have a right to condemnation proceedings to ensure the taking is lawful. However, if a property owner is facing the taking of their property for government purposes and they disagree with the taking, they may want to seek the advice of an attorney to ensure their rights are not being infringed upon.