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Eminent Domain: Know Your Rights

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eminent-domain

It doesn’t matter where you fall on the political spectrum, chances are you and the government have some trust issues. Big brother and good ol’ Uncle Sam aren’t invited to many family gatherings these days, and as our country becomes more divided and media outlets seem to be less and less reliable, lack of trust in the powers that be is at an all-time high, and for good reason.

One of the issues for mistrust, that doesn’t seem to get much attention, is the topic of eminent domain. If you’ve never heard that term, don’t feel bad. The government stays pretty tight-lipped on the subject, but if you, or anyone you know, owns any property within the United States, then it’s time to get familiar with this issue. Eminent domain is a law grounded in the 5th amendment, which allows the federal government to seize private property for public use. Public use includes the construction of roads and freeways, municipal buildings and schools, preservation of historic sites, expansion of railroads and utilities, and renovation of “blighted” sites. But don’t worry, the government won’t take your homestead for free.

Eminent domain requires the government to compensate for the property seizure based upon an appraisal of the property and current market value. So, they can take your home, but they have to pay you and everything is done with honesty and fairness, right? Wrong. As you might have guessed, there are several instances of the government misusing this power against its citizens. In 1999, an entire neighborhood of 83 homes and 16 businesses were seized for the construction of a Chrysler plant in Toledo, OH. This seizure included a promise of the creation of 5,000 new jobs, but in reality only 2,100 people ever gained employment.

The early 2000’s saw the removal of 127 homeowners in Hurst, TX, for the expansion of a private mall. A small group of homeowners resisted with lawsuits, but all were overruled. These are just a couple of examples of governmental abuse and the misuse of eminent domain.

As with many governmental issues, it is minority groups, poorer, and less educated citizens who bear the brunt of the effects. The median income in eminent domain areas is 19k, while the median income in surrounding areas is 23k. Minorities make up 58% of the population in eminent domain areas, but only 48% in surrounding areas.

Unfortunately individuals are rarely successful in battling the government in eminent domain cases. After all, the net is spread pretty wide to include whatever the government wants to define as “for public use.” Still, no one is completely powerless. It’s possible that the reason you’ve never heard of this before is because knowledge is power, and power is not something easily relinquished by the government. So what can you do?

Get educated. Learn what you need to know as a property owner and spread the word to those around you. Then, if you or you family ever find yourselves in an eminent domain battle against the government, consult with an attorney. Consultations are usually free, but your property doesn’t have to be. Make sure you are armed and ready if Uncle Sam knocks on your door.

eminent domain infographic
Source: Dallas & Turner, PLLC

Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency , based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019. Follow Brian Wallace on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.

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