Can Eminent Domain Be Used to Take Personal Property?

To adequately answer the question, it is necessary to define what “personal property” is first. Personal property includes property that is both tangible and intangible which is not permanently attached to land. Tangible property is physical in nature. Meaning that you can touch it or pick it up. Intangible property is not physical. Examples of intangible property would be a trademark, franchise, or a copyright. Additionally, fixtures are a type of property that is permanently attached to a house or a piece of land by means which are permanent in nature. A ceiling fan would be a typical fixture in a house. A fixture is typically considered to be part of the land itself. In other words, fixtures are not considered personal property.

Neither the United States Constitution nor the North Carolina Constitution specifies which type of property may be taken be an authority exercising eminent domain. Courts throughout the country dating back to the 18th century have even confirmed the idea that an authority attempting to exercise eminent domain could in theory take a person’s personal property so long as it is done for a public purpose and just compensation is given for the property. However, there has rarely been a successful taking of personal property through the exercise of eminent domain.

Although this might seem unfair, the government might deem it necessary to exercise the power of eminent domain when it views a person’s personal property as a necessary piece to carry out a legitimate public purpose. Even though the government rarely sees the need to take personal property, it still must meet the two-pronged requirement before it can exercise eminent domain over the personal property. There must first be a legitimate public purpose and just compensation must be given in exchange for the property-whether personal property or land.

Our firm focuses on three practice areas: Disability, Personal Injury, and Eminent Domain. Every practice area has attorneys who have expertise in their respective area of practice. 

Chad Brown is a North Carolina Board Certified Social Security disability law specialist. Mr. Brown helps Social Security disability claimants at all stages of the disability process. He also works with people that have Long Term Disability denials and with people that are injured by drugs and defective medical products.

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