Eminent Domain: Conditions That Must Be Met Before Government Takes Over Your Land

Does the government have the power to take over your land? And if they do, what rights are in place to protect the owners from being taken advantage of? This article highlights all necessary information you must be aware of.

Eminent Domain: Conditions That Must Be Met Before Government Takes Over Your Land

Does the Government have the right to take your land? The simple answer is Yes. Yes, they do have a right, provided under the doctrine of Eminent Domain.

Eminent Domain entitles the government to the right to take one's private property for public use upon making just compensation.

Conditions For Eminent Domain

Just compensation must be paid for the property. This means that the government is permitted to take property only after compensating the property owner fairly.

The property must be genuinely necessary for public use. For example construction or expansion of roads and railway lines and stations, and any other government project that benefits the public.

No person shall be deprived of their property without due process of law. Especially in cases where the buildings are demolished for the preservation of the environment or the safety of the people.

In Kenya, we have seen families being displaced from their homes and land to allow for the construction of the Standard Guage Railway (SGR).

In other areas buildings worth billions have been demolished such as the South End Mall that was located along Lang'ata road as it was alleged to have been built on a riverbank.

We also saw the six-storey building in Kayole be demolished after it was declared unsafe.

These are just but a few examples of properties and persons that suffered under eminent domain.

Since the government has the right to take any property or land as long as they have a due cause, following the conditions necessary, it's important that we also get to learn about the rights of the property owners in such a situation.

Owners’ Rights

The owner is entitled to be notified of the pending exercise.

When the South End Mall was demolished, tenants complained about losing their goods for business since they had not been given proper notice to vacate the premises.

Owners have a right to fair compensation and transparency in land acquisition.

Many families have been shown lamenting how the government took their land and did not compensate them. Of course, some of them were eventually compensated and we can't ignore the fact that the process can take time. This is where transparency is important and the owners are made aware of the process.

In the case of acquisition of land for use by private companies or private-public partnerships, consent of 80% of the soon-to-be displaced people will be required.

The purchase of large pieces of land by private companies will require the provision of resettlement.

The owner cannot challenge whether the particular exercise will occur, in fact, the government has the right to exercise eminent domain at any particular time. However, it is good to know your rights as the property owner.

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