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When can the state take your home through eminent domain?

| Dec 18, 2020 | Real Estate Transactions |

If you are like most middle-class Americans, your home is the most valuable thing you have, other than perhaps retirement savings. You probably spend a significant amount of your income paying your mortgage and a lot of your time maintaining and upgrading your home. You love the space and may hope to live there for the rest of your life or sell it for a premium thanks to your sweat equity before you retire.

All of that investment could wind up destroyed under a bulldozer even if you don’t want to sell. There are laws that allow state, federal or local governments to take your property from you. Usually, this process also involves the payment of fair market value for the property but you will not have a choice about whether or not you sell.

Eminent domain laws are what permit these forced transactions, usually in the name of community progress. When might your property be at risk if you are a homeowner in Connecticut?

Connecticut has broad eminent domain laws

The most common scenarios for people to lose a home to eminent domain might involve the expansion of a public housing project or the construction of a new highway on-ramp. Usually, eminent domain actions stem from the need to improve infrastructure.

Once civic projects have approval from either voters or those with government authority, homeowners must sell their homes. Unlike in many other states, Connecticut also allows for the use of eminent domain proceedings in circumstances involving private development by businesses, not just municipal or government projects.

Eminent domain claims don’t always lead to improvements

Over a decade ago, New London forced the sale of more than 70 houses and businesses owned by people who lived and worked in the community under eminent domain. They had the promise of corporate development, which led to dozens of families losing their homes and moving away from the community. Years later, where homes once stood, there is still nothing but vacant land. The private business investment that pushed the eminent domain proceedings forward fell through.

This sad case right here in Connecticut pushed reform forward in 23 other states. However, here in Connecticut, private development could still result in eminent domain proceedings against a property owner. The sooner you take action when you learn that your home is at risk, the greater your chances of protecting your biggest investment.