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(1) A proceeding to obtain private property for public use through the exercise of the government's rights of eminent domain. Historically considered possible only for public improvement projects such as roads, schools, and courthouses, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Kelo v.City of New London, 125 S.Ct. 2655 (June 23, 2005) held that local government could condemn land belonging to one private party in order to convey it to another private party as part of an economic development plan to increase government revenues, add jobs, and improve the quality of life in a depressed area.

In a condemnation case, the government will order an appraisal of the property and then offer the owner the appraised price,or perhaps a negotiated amount in excess of the appraisal but taking into account the savings realized by not having to litigate the issue.If the property owner does not accept, the government must escrow the amount of money determined by its appraisal and may then proceed with condemnation of the property.The parties may then go to court to contest the amount of the required award,but the contest will not prevent or delay condemnation of the property.

Specialized tax rules apply whether property is condemned,sold to the government under threat of condemnation,or sold to a third party under reasonable fear of impending condemnation (see IRS Publication 544 at may defer income realized in a condemnation award by purchasing replacement property within 2,3,or 5 years,depending on the particular circumstances.

Payments to cover the costs of relocating are not part of the condemnation award and are not taxable income.Severance damages awarded because of damage caused to the remaining property are not part of the condemnation award. The amount of damages will reduce the basis in the remaining property. If it reduces the basis to $0, then any excess must be reported as gain, but taxation can be deferred.

(2) A decision by local government that property owned by another is no longer safe and must be repaired or demolished.It is not a defense that the owner is making no use of the property and is not exposed to any danger,so long as the public at large may be exposed to danger.If the owner fails to make the necessary repairs or take any other action, the government authority may conduct the demolition itself and place a lien upon the property for the costs of demolition.

The Complete Real Estate Encyclopedia by Denise L. Evans, JD & O. William Evans, JD. Copyright © 2007 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


The taking of property by a public authority. The property is condemned as the result of legal action and the owner is compensated by the public authority. The power to condemn property is known as the right of eminent domain.
Copyright © 2008 H&R Block. All Rights Reserved. Reproduced with permission from H&R Block Glossary
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