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What Is Inverse Condemnation and How Is it Different from Eminent Domain?

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When the government wishes to seize your property for some public use, like building a school or a road, it normally will file an eminent domain action to obtain possession of the property. But sometimes, government actions have the effect of making use of your property without seizing it or effectively reducing or eliminating the value of your property. In these situations, you may pursue financial compensation through an inverse condemnation claim.

 Understanding Inverse Condemnation

Inverse condemnation involves the taking of a portion of someone’s property or using someone’s property for the public good, but in a way that impairs the value of the owner’s property. Inverse condemnation occurs when the government takes property or encumbers property rights, but their use doesn’t promote a substantial government interest. Inverse condemnation can also occur when the government’s taking has deprived a property owner of some of or all the economic value of their property.

Inverse condemnation frequently arises in cases involving a “regulatory taking,” where government regulations on a property have the effect of eliminating all beneficial or profitable uses of the property. Inverse condemnation is also alleged in zoning and permit cases. A landowner may allege that the conditions required for zoning or permit approval don’t advance a legitimate state interest or that the condition is disproportionate to the state’s interest.

Inverse condemnations can also be temporary in nature, such as when a government project needs to flood a portion of a landowner’s property or a construction project requires equipment vehicles to traverse or be stored on private property.

In an inverse condemnation action, a property owner may be entitled to recover compensation for the lost value of their property when that loss was caused by the government’s “taking.” However, a successful inverse condemnation action will require showing that some government action has invaded a recognized property right.

 How Inverse Condemnation Is Different Than Eminent Domain

While both arise from the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, inverse condemnation and eminent domain are distinct from each other in several ways.

First, eminent domain normally involves the physical taking of property for the government’s use or for public purposes. This may include the government taking the land of one or more people to build a hospital or military base or taking only a portion of a landowner’s property to build or expand a highway. Eminent domain can also be used to take a “lease” of land from a property owner, such as if the government needs space to park construction vehicles and equipment for a highway project.

As a result, eminent domain cases are normally initiated by the government, which seeks to take an owner’s property for government or public use. Eminent domain, therefore, results in the forced taking of possession or ownership of private property.

Conversely, inverse condemnation cases are usually filed by the landowner, who alleges that some government action has impaired or eliminated the value of their property. The property owner can obtain financial compensation for the loss of the use or value of their property. In addition, under certain circumstances, a property owner may be entitled to separate compensation for the loss of use or enjoyment of their property due to inverse condemnation, when the loss of use or value was later followed by a formal eminent domain action by the government.

 Contact Us for Help

If you believe that government action has taken over your property or impaired or destroyed the value of your property, you may be entitled to obtain compensation through an inverse condemnation or eminent domain action. Contact Wagner Zemming Christensen, LLP, for an initial consultation. Call us at 951-686-4800 to see how our experienced attorneys might help you obtain the financial recovery you deserve.

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