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Condemnation, Inverse Condemnation & Eminent Domain

Instructor: Tisha Collins Batis

Tisha is a licensed real estate agent in Texas. She holds bachelor's in legal studies and a master's degree in criminal justice.

In this lesson, the terms condemnation, inverse condemnation, and eminent domain will be defined. Additionally, an explanation of each and how they work together will be provided.

What are Condemnation, Inverse Condemnation, and Eminent Domain?

Letha bought a house a few years ago. It's right at the edge of town with plenty of peace and privacy. There's a small two-lane highway that runs right by her house, but she didn't give it much thought. One day, she received a letter in the mail. It was from the government, saying that they were going to widen the highway. Their plans included taking out a 30-foot wide strip of land from her east property line. The letter also says that the government would pay her for the land. She had just put up a new fence and invested in some landscaping along that fence line. What can she do? Is this even legal?

Highway
highway

Definitions

Eminent domain is simply the power of the government to take the private property of an individual for public use. The property may be taken by the federal, state, or local government. However, just compensation must be provided for the property taken. This is required by the Fifth Amendment. When applying eminent domain, the following elements are required:

  1. The property taken must be private property
  2. The property must be taken
  3. The property taken must be used for public use
  4. The owner of the property must be justly compensated for the property

Condemnation is the legal process used to take private property for public use. The government can't simply say they're going to take property and then take it. There is red tape involved. The owner must be approached with an offer to purchase the property. If the owner won't agree to sell, the government will file a condemnation suit and the case is taken to court. If the government has the property appraised and then deposits that amount of money with the court, then the government can actually take the property at that time.

Inverse Condemnation occurs when the government takes a piece of private property that results in the rest of the property being unusable by the owner. In this case, the owner can claim that just compensation for the property was not provided because, essentially, they took a loss on the remaining property. This would hold true in the case of a business wherein the taking of property made it impossible for the business to run as it had before. The property owner can seek just compensation for the entire property.

Example

Remember Letha? She decided that there was no way that she was going to let the government have her new fence and landscaping. They could just take property on the other side of the road as far as she was concerned. She told them that she wasn't selling, thinking that it would be the end of the issue. Instead, she quickly found herself in court. The government had already had that strip of property appraised and Letha didn't have much chance in court. She was paid for the land but had to build a new fence and put in new landscaping. Once the highway was widened, more cattle trucks started going down the highway. The noise and the smell made her want to sell her home, but now her lot was 30 feet narrower.

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