Eminent domain is the process by which the government can take land from private landowners. This is a controversial process because many people believe that this is essentially an infringement on their rights. They do not want the government to be able to just take their property on a whim.
However, under U.S. law, the government does have the ability to do this – and has for generations. The stipulation is simply that they have to pay a fair price for that property. This can also lead to disputes, as people may not believe the price is fair, so the whole thing can get very complicated. Why is this system even in place? What does the government use eminent domain for?
Historically, one of the main ways that eminent domain is used is to facilitate transportation. This can clearly be seen from the building of the interstate highway system. In order to allow the interstate to be built correctly and designed safely, private businesses and even private homes sometimes have to be relocated or demolished. Other reasons that the government uses eminent domain include:
- Constructing public buildings, such as government buildings
- Supplying water to citizens in the local area
- Building military installations or preparing for the defense of the country
Essentially, the government is only going to use eminent domain if there’s a very serious need for that land. Even then, they still do have to pay a fair price to the owner. But one of the most common disputes is over what this price should be. It’s important for all landowners to understand their legal rights if they find themselves in this position.