The power of eminent domain, enshrined by the Fifth Amendment, gives local, state, and national governments the right to take property away from landowners. The government can seize the land for public purposes in exchange for just compensation. Learn about specific eminent domain laws in the State of Iowa and its local jurisdictions, as well as how to protect yourself if the government comes for your land.

Know the Eminent Domain Laws

It’s essential to understand the laws around eminent domain. Iowa Code § 6A dictates state-level eminent domain regulations. It states that county-level governments can take private property from landowners under their jurisdiction, as can cities, cemetery associations, and subdistricts of water and soil conservation districts. 

Properties that don’t connect to public or private roads may also exercise eminent domain over another property “for the purpose of providing a public way which will connect with an existing public road.” 

Iowa is known for respecting personal property rights, so its government officials try not to abuse the power of eminent domain. In response to the controversial Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005) case, Iowa legislators increased scrutiny on what they consider “economic benefits” and “blighted property,” and the Iowa Supreme Court disavowed Kelo in an eminent domain decision

The government can take property in Iowa that’s in “blighted” or “slum” conditions or brings economic benefits related to “employment opportunities.” The right to eminent domain also applies if the use for the land falls under a “project or acquisition” plan. 

In eminent domain cases, Iowa landowners receive 130% of the appraisal value, plus expense payments up to $5,000. Iowa Code § 6B details the state’s procedure regarding eminent domain.

Have an Attorney in Mind

According to a report published by the Institute for Justice, eminent domain cases disproportionately affect urban and racially diverse areas and low-income residents. However, all Iowa residents could face eminent domain, particularly private farm owners. 

In cities, municipalities may acquire blighted properties for redevelopment or urban renewal projects if 75% of the properties within the project are blighted properties. Other avenues allow the government to claim public need. 

When facing a land claim, it’s helpful to speak with an eminent domain attorney based in Iowa. Every state and county has different laws and rights afforded to public officials, councils, private companies, nonprofit groups, and landowners.

Be Mentally Prepared

It’s helpful to prepare in your mind for the potential for eminent domain. By understanding that this could happen to you, it may not be as overwhelming or unexpected if it does. A standard claim typically takes several months to resolve, while nonstandard cases can take a year or more. 

Although the thought of turning your property over to the government can feel overwhelming, taking steps to learn more about the laws on your own can increase your knowledge and confidence. With the help of an eminent domain attorney, you can learn whether the government is following the rules or stepping outside of its boundaries by trying to claim your property.