Under the United States Constitution, the government is permitted to take and use property for a public purpose if they give the landowner just compensation. Generally, federal and state governments have delegated this eminent domain power to local governments and municipalities.  However, in a recent case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that local governments may seize people’s homes and businesses ” even against their will ” for private economic development.

What Were the Circumstances of This Case?

A group of Connecticut residents’ homes were slated for destruction to make room for an office complex. Even though the city planned to provide these residents with just compensation for their loss, the residents did not wish to lose their homes. They brought a lawsuit arguing that cities have no right to take their land except for projects with a clear public use, such as roads or schools, or to revitalize blighted areas.

What Was the Outcome?

The Supreme Court rejected the residents’ lawsuit, stating that local officials know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community. It held that because the city had carefully formulated an economic development it believed would provide appreciable benefits to the community – such as new jobs and increased tax revenue – those benefits outweighed the residents’ pleas.

Previously, municipalities could not seize people’s home for private economic development. Cities now have wider power to bulldoze residences for commercial projects such as shopping malls and hotel complexes in order to generate tax revenue. As long as cities can show that they carefully crafted such plans to generate tax revenue or create more jobs for the community, they have much broader eminent domain power.

Do I Need an Attorney for an Eminent Domain Issue?

In an eminent domain situation, a real estate lawyer’s assistance is essential to help you negotiated with the government for a proper award for your property. Although the government can now use its power of eminent domain to justify seizing your property for economic development, your best chance of combating such a proceeding is to retain a lawyer. An experienced real estate lawyer can research the government’s reason for seizing your home and determine whether you can contest the proceeding based on the government’s motive.