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Eminent Domain And What It Means For Property Owners

Updated on March 7, 2013

When a person buys a property, they own the soil, landscaping, fixtures, air rights and basically anything straight down from the line to the Earth’s core. When there is no conditions on the land and no third party with any rights, the ownership is considered to be of fee simple absolute. This means that the owner has the “greatest possible aggregation of rights, privileges, and power” (Hollowell and Miller, 2011).

However, there is one entity that will always have complete control over, well everything. The government has what is called superior ownership, also known as eminent domain. This basically means that the government can take your property at any time, which is so correctly called taking. The government has to use it for something that is considered for the public, so basically they can take your land to build more highways, a police station, or even flood out your property to make a dam. The only recourse is a stipulation found in the fifth amendment of the U. S. Constitution, saying that private property may not be taken for public use without “just compensation. So even though they do have superior rights to any and all property, they would still have to pay you the fair market value of the land that they condemn and destroy. This will include everything that is considered real property and in most cases your personal property that was damaged as well.


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