Inverse Condemnation

The Language of Real Estate

Inverse Condemnation

An action for just compensation brought by a person whose property has been effectively taken, substantially interfered with, or taken without just compensation.

For example, when a governmental authority announces it will condemn an owner’s property and then unduly delays in taking the property, the owner can bring legal action to force a condemnation and payment for the taking. Or if the noise of low-flying government aircraft damages the owner’s use of the land, there may be inverse condemnation, or a taking of property for which compensation must be paid.

Another example is where some public works are undertaken with resultant damage to a private owner, but no condemnation action is taken by a public body. Such cases are called inverse condemnations because they are started by an owner who seeks compensation from the condemning agency and the payment is for land not directly condemned.

Courts have held that a zoning action that merely decreases the market value of property does not constitute a compensable taking actionable under a theory of inverse condemnation as long as a reasonably viable economic use exists.

An inverse condemnation suit is not available before there has been an actual taking or physical interference with the subject property.

Inverse condemnation is the flip side of eminent domain and occurs when a public entity indirectly “condemns” private property by acting (e.g., a restrictive use regulation like downzoning), or failing to act when it should have, and property loss or damage results.

The taking is not by legal action but by conduct. It is irrelevant whether the act or failure to act was negligent.

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