Local Government May Take Property Without Compensation if the Taking is Necessary to Protect Public Health and Safety

A recent Seventh Circuit decision re-affirmed precedent that, so long as the proper procedures are followed, local governments may take private property so long as the taking is necessary to protect public health and safety. In the recent case of Willow Way, LLC v. Village of Lyons, Illinois, No. 22-1775, the Court considered a dispute over the Village’s demolition of a dilapidated house on property owned by Willow Way, LLC. Willow Way argued that the demolition was a taking without compensation and violated principles of substantive due process.

The Seventh Circuit ultimately held that the demolition of a dilapidated structure that constitutes a public nuisance is not problematic under the Due Process Clause and does not require compensation, citing several previous Supreme Court cases as precedent in support of its ruling. The Court also noted that Willow Way had received notice of the demolition and had the opportunity to respond. However, Willow Way did not take any action to prevent the demolition until the week it was scheduled to occur. By then, it was too late.

Implications for Property Owners and Municipalities

The decision in Willow Way has important implications for both property owners and municipalities. For property owners, the case is a reminder that they have a responsibility to maintain their property in a safe and orderly condition. If a property becomes a nuisance, the municipality may have the power to abate the nuisance, even if it involves destroying the property. However, property owners must be given adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard before their property is destroyed.

For municipalities, the decision in Willow Way is a reminder that they have the power to abate nuisances. This power is essential to protecting the public health and safety. However, municipalities must exercise this power carefully and in accordance with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

However, it is important to note that the government’s power to take property without compensation is not unlimited. The government must still follow certain procedures, such as providing notice and an opportunity to be heard by property owners before taking their property. This is to ensure that property owners are not deprived of their property without due process of law.

For more information about this article, please contact Tressler attorney
Jim Hess at jhess@tresslerllp.com.