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How does inverse condemnation work?

On Behalf of | Oct 11, 2021 | Eminent Domain

Imagine a situation where a government forces a private property owner to give up their land for public use, but the government doesn’t pay the fair market value for it. In some cases, this is what property owners in California go through. What happens in such situations? Here’s what you need to know.

What is inverse condemnation?

This is a legal term that refers to a situation where the government takes private property for public use without compensating its owner fairly. There are many reasons why a government might choose to do this; the most common one is to build infrastructure, such as roads and highways, or for another form of land use.

Inverse condemnation cases are rare. In fact, they only occur when private property owners sue the government after their land gets taken for particular land use.

What about eminent domain?

Eminent domain allows governments to take private property for public use, but the government must compensate owners fairly up to market value. Eminent domain is a legal concept that came to be when the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution stated, in 1791, that private property cannot “be taken for public use without just compensation.” If the government fails to compensate property owners fairly for their land use, then the landowner can initiate inverse condemnation proceedings.

What happens after the proceedings start?

In California, a jury determines what “actual damages” entail; this includes property values and future losses. If a jury decides to award damages to a property owner, the judge will usually order the government to pay it within 30 days. The government can also choose to appeal the decision.

Inverse condemnation cases can seem complicated and confusing, especially when they involve multiple landowners. However, the law is there to make sure property owners get just compensation.