The government’s right to force the sale of (i.e., take) private property for public use or to acquire public property for a higher public use is known as “eminent domain.” The government’s power of eminent domain is balanced with its constitutional obligation to pay “just compensation” to the owner of the property interest being acquired. The power of eminent domain is governed by statute. The government’s right to take must meet both constitutional and statutory limitations, so that the property owner is assured his or her rights to just compensation for the property taken.
In contrast to eminent domain, inverse condemnation occurs when the government effectively acquires or is deemed to acquire private property without relying on specific mandatory statutes allowing for such acquisition. In an eminent domain proceeding ,the government initiates the action to acquire the property. An inverse condemnation action is initiated by the property owner to recover compensation for an uncompensated taking that has already occurred. Inverse condemnation can be a physical invasion and occupation or damage to private property, or the taking or damaging of private property as a result of government regulation. Inverse condemnation often arises in the land use context, where a property owner challenges development or use restrictions imposed on property.