If the government approaches you and says that they want to buy your land, you may be worried that the next step is eminent domain. If you do not want to sell, the government can sometimes use eminent domain to take your land.
This feels, in many ways, like it flies in the face of America’s foundational principles about who can own property. Rest assured that it is a very controversial process, and many people who lose their property feel that it is unfair. How is this process even legal in a country where personal ownership and personal freedom are both so important?
Compensation and public use
First of all, you are entitled to payment for your property. This is your constitutional right. That compensation has to be fair. This in itself is controversial, though, as you may feel that the offer the government is making is not fair, while they assure you that it is. These cases can get very complicated as true market value is determined.
Additionally, this process is only legal when the land in question is being used for some sort of public project. A major example is the construction of the interstate highway system. A government official cannot claim your land under eminent domain laws and then use it for their own personal projects or development. It has to be for the good of the country in some fashion.
What if you want to fight eminent domain?
If the authorities do tell you that they’re going to use eminent domain, you may want to do everything in your power to stop them. You need to know exactly what legal options you have at your disposal.