Eminent Domain Vs. Inverse Condemnation: Is There a Difference?

Due to loopholes in the law and the U.S. Constitution, the government has the right and power to acquire private property for its own or public use. While the rules for when or how they may acquire private property vary from situation to situation, the taking of property typically falls into one of two categories: the power of eminent domain or inverse condemnation.

The result of inverse condemnation and eminent domain proceedings is almost always the same: The government gains access to your private property whether you like it or not. However, how the government goes about obtaining access varies. The Owners’ Counsel of America explains¬†the differences between eminent domain and inverse condemnation¬†so that you may better understand your rights.

Eminent domain

When the government evokes its eminent domain power, it basically evokes the right to force property owners to sell their land for public projects or public use. Per eminent domain laws, governments that wish to exercise their eminent domain powers must follow specific procedures to establish the fair market value of the property in question and to compensate the owner in the amount that the property is worth. It is not uncommon for local, state or federal governments to grant private organizations, such as railroads or gas companies, their eminent domain power if doing so would benefit the public.

Inverse condemnation

Inverse condemnation occurs when a local, state or federal government body acquires private property for public use without adhering to eminent domain procedures or fairly compensating the owner. Inverse condemnation does not have to entail the physical or permanent taking of a property. Rather, it may occur if the government imposes laws or regulations that significantly burden private property in such a way that the owner cannot derive any economic value from it.

When inverse condemnation occurs, you may file an inverse condemnation lawsuit. Though there is no guarantee that you will get your property back, you will, at the very least, receive fair compensation for it.

It is important that you understand the differences between eminent domain and inverse condemnation, as your rights differ under each. If your property has become subject to either process, the best thing you can do to protect your rights is to consult with an experienced lawyer.