The History of Eminent Domain

The History of Eminent Domain

September 11, 2019

Eminent domain is the legal concept that the government can seize a private citizen’s land for civic use. The owner must be compensated, but their consent is not required. Often, this land is used for utilities, railroads, highways and government buildings or facilities. Sometimes eminent domain is used when public safety is at issue, such as with environmental hazards. The idea is that the seized land will be of greater benefit to the public, but the original owner must be monetarily compensated for the loss of their land.

Although the policy behind the law seems justified, and landowners are free to reject initial offers, they’re not free to say no when an entity is using eminent domain. This causes many Texas landowners to feel that the deck is stacked against them.

Eminent domain shouldn’t be confused with condemnation, which is when the government deems a building or structure unsafe and uninhabitable. In condemnation cases, the title remains with the owner.

Eminent domain in the United States

The term “eminent domain” has its roots in 17th century Europe, when Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius coined it, but it has been codified as far back as the Magna Carta in 1215. Countries all over the world have different forms of eminent domain.

The concept of condemnation came to America with settlers and their common law, but it was codified into the Constitution as eminent domain when James Madison argued that compensation was necessary, and the land must be for public use. Previously, the land was taken without compensation because it was so abundant.

In the 20th century, the supreme court held that the government can take land (for example, razed or blighted land) and sell it to developers, citing the public interest.

Why land surveying is important in eminent domain cases

Land surveying in Guadalupe County, TX in eminent domain cases helps determine one major factor: what would constitute “just compensation.” Typically, compensation is determined by the fair market value of the land. This takes into account its best and highest-value use, not what the government actually plans to use it for.

If you’re subjected to eminent domain, experts warn you not to sign the first offer that comes your way. The first thing you should do—after you see an attorney to assist you through the legal portions—is have your land surveyed by a professional. An accurate land survey in Guadalupe County, TX can help assess the fair market value of your land, as well as what diminution in value your remaining property can expect when the land is taken away.

When you need a land survey in Guadalupe County, TX, turn to the experts at Bettersworth & Associates, Inc. We’ve fielded an experienced team of resourceful and award-winning land planners since 1953, and have built a reputation for creating better places in which to live, learn, work and play. Through our excellent customer service and skilled surveyors, we’ve become the leader in the region. Reach out to us today to learn more about our services.

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