Public Power, Private Gain: Idaho



Idaho has a strong record of avoiding the use of eminent domain for private parties. Our research shows no instances within the past five years of such private use takings. The Idaho state legislature even passed a new law that strengthens the notice rights of property owners. Senate Bill 1515, which was enacted on April 14, 2000, requires any governmental body that attempts to seize property through eminent domain to advise property owners in writing of their constitutional rights. Any failure to advise citizens of their rights creates a presumption of coercion in any contract between the condemning authority and the individual.186 With greater information for condemnees and little or no use of eminent domain for private development, Idaho ranks as one of the best states in the country for protecting owners from eminent domain abuse.

186 S.B. 1515, 55th Sess. (Idaho 2000), codified at Idaho Code § 7-711A (Michie 2002). The notice required under this statute must include an explanation of the power and need of the condemning authority to take the property, a statement telling the individual that the government is required to negotiate with him for purchase of the property or to pay him for any diminution of value of the property, and the manner in which the value shall be determined (fair market value determined by best use of the property). In addition, it must tell property owners that they can sue in court for damages, that they have access to all government appraisals, and that they can hire their own appraiser and attorney. (In certain situations, the government may pay attorney and court fees for the owner.) Finally, the condemning authority must give at least 30 days’ notice before it can take any property.