Eminent Domain in Illinois – If the Government Wants to Take Your Property You are Entitled to Just Compensation

Condemnation, or eminent domain, is the process by which the Illinois government (state or any unit of local government) exercises its power to take private property for public purposes subject to the constitutional requirement that just compensation be paid to the owner. No taking can occur until the government files a condemnation petition, a court determines what the owner is entitled to receive as just compensation (the owner may request that the matter be put to a jury) and the government actually pays the owner the just compensation.

The condemnation of private property for public use under the Eminent Domain Act is a special statutory proceeding. 735 ILCS 5/30 et seq. Generally, the government must both demonstrate that the acquisition of the property is necessary for a public purpose and that the property will be owned by the government.

If the government plans on acquiring the property for private ownership, it must demonstrate that the property is to be used primarily for the benefit, use and enjoyment of the public and that the transfer of the property is for a public purpose. Examples of condemnation proceedings that have been found to meet that standard include the acquisition of property for telephone, electricity and railroad companies. The elimination of blight has also been found to satisfy this requirement. The property owner may challenge the government’s assertion that the property is a blight.