Condemnation refers to the seizure of private property by a state for public purposes. In exchange the owner of the private property receives just compensation.

What is condemnation?

Condemnation is when a state seizes private property for public purposes. This includes land, buildings and even - in some cases - intellectual property. In return, the former owner of the property seized during condemnation has to be compensated justly. A condemned property owner then has the right to legally challenge the condemnation in court, should they feel that the compensation is lacking or in case they want to keep the property.

Examples of condemnation

The most common example involves the condemnation of real estate for infrastructure projects like roads or railways. One of the biggest historic instances of this was the construction of the national highway system in the USA in the 1950s during which many homeowners had to give up their property to make way for interstate infrastructure.

Another example could be a government seizing a pharmaceutical company’s medication for a specific illness and making it publicly available. This could happen during a viral pandemic or in case of a shortage of affordable medication for a widespread condition.

One of the most present examples in European history is the condemnation of Jewish businesses by the German government during the rule of the Third Reich. However, most of the condemned property owners did not receive just compensation or any compensation at all.

Just compensation

The question of just compensation in condemnation cases is difficult to settle. The value of the condemned property is usually based on what the highest price a seller could achieve on the open market, as compared to standard market value. In the event of a homeowner having to relocate to make way for a road the state not only has to compensate them for the value of their property left behind but also for the inconvenience of having to relocate, as well as possible business costs or fees arising from that.

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