Eminent domain is the right of the government, either federal or state, to take or appropriate private property for the public use. The power of eminent domain is found in the last phrase of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” (U.S. Const. amend. V).
The Ohio Constitution reads in part:
“Private property shall ever be held inviolate, but subservient to the public welfare. When taken in time of war or other public exigency, imperatively requiring its immediate seizure or for the purpose of making or repairing roads….a compensation shall be made to the owner…” (Art. 1, Sect. 19: Inviolability of private property (1851)).
How much am I entitled to if my property is taken for public use?
When property is acquisitioned by the government, the Ohio Constitution requires just compensation, or fair market value, be paid to the property owner. This means that this is the amount of money a purchaser is willing but not required to buy, and that a seller is willing but not required to accept on the open market.
Included are the features of the property that a buyer would consider, including location, area, condition of the premises and improvements made. If only a portion of the property is taken, the owner is entitled to damages as well as fair market value for the loss in value due to disfigurement or diminished area.
What if I disagree with the amount of compensation given?
Even after the government has completed an appraisal, given notice to the landowner and made a good faith offer of purchase, the property owner may have the amount of compensation assessed by a jury. If the property owner and the government cannot agree on a final amount, the state will file an appropriation action in which a jury trial will follow to determine the final amount owed.
What protections do I have?
After the landowner is given notice, it is important that they first consult with legal counsel that is experienced in eminent domain cases. Getting a private appraisal is essential, and it is important to know that farmers have special protections in eminent domain cases. The justification must be for a public purpose, not just economic development.