Property

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives citizens the right to purchase, sell, lease, hold and convey real property. Antidiscrimination laws may limit many of these property rights in buying, selling and renting property-due process issues typically arise in condemnation cases.

Governmental entities are allowed to "condemn" or take private property for public use. Obviously, the landowner must be justly compensated or paid for the property. Under the law, the landowner has certain due process rights during these negotiations and to appeal the purchase price offered by the government entity. Additionally, due process rights apply to a landowner who is attempting to block the condemnation entirely. These landowners are alleging an "unlawful taking" on the part of the city, county or state attempting to condemn the land. They have a right to be notified of a pending condemnation and be heard in court as to why it should not be allowed.

TIP: You must be notified if your property is being annexed or brought within the boundaries of a city. The act of annexation may subject you to, for example, additional taxes. If you are not properly notified, your due process rights have been violated and you may not have to pay the new taxes, since you did not know about the annexation or have a chance to contest it.

Can the city keep me from opening a hair salon on my property?

Yes. Cities typically zone various areas for either business use, residential use or both. Although property owners have a constitutionally protected right to enjoy their property without governmental interference, zoning ordinances are presumed to be valid.

We are within the city limits but miles away from anyone. Why can the city prohibit fireworks on my property?

Your right to freely enjoy your property does not take precedence over the city's interest in preventing damaging fires from igniting.

Why is cockfighting banned on private property in the state?

You do not have a constitutional right to inflict harm on animals because you are on privately owned property. Laws enacted to prevent cruelty to animals are a proper and reasonable exercise of government power to limit an owner's property rights. The state has a legitimate interest in outlawing activities that are considered immoral and inhumane.

Sidebar: Laws can limit how you use your property if they are reasonable and necessary to promote the health, morals, peace and welfare of the community. You can be forced to mow high weeds, remove junked cars and clean up piles of trash in your front yard because laws requiring clean-up promote the health and safety of the public.

I entered into a premarital agreement stating that a house I owned before marriage would remain my property. Can a judge force me sell it and divide the proceeds if I divorce my husband?

No-not if the agreement is valid. The house (and any other property that belongs to you) cannot be taken from you to benefit another person where there is no justifiable public purpose.

I was cited for killing a deer out of season on my property although the deer was destroying my landscaping. Is this constitutional?

Yes. Although you have a right to protect your property, laws made to preserve, protect and manage wildlife are a legitimate restriction on the use and enjoyment of your property.

My son was in a fight at school, and the principal sent him home and told him not to come back for a week. Do we have the right to fight the principal's decision?

Yes, since your child's right to a free public education is a property interest and denying him that right requires due process. The school should have a hearing procedure in place so that the child can tell his side of the story. He may still be expelled but he has the right to be heard.

My daughter talked back to the band director, and he has barred her from marching at football games. Do we have a right to go to the school board and contest his decision?

No. Your daughter had the right to a free public education, not the right to participate in extracurricular activities.

Sidebar: Schools can require students to submit to drug testing in order to participate in extracurricular activities. The students' due process rights are not violated because participation in extracurricular activities is not a fundamental right and schools have a legitimate interest in protecting the safety and health of their students.

Can I sue the city for condemning my building and destroying it?

No. As long as you had notice of the city's intent to demolish the building and an opportunity to repair (if the building could be repaired), your due process rights were not violated. The city can legitimately enact ordinances that permit the destruction of unsafe, unhealthy and dangerous buildings. Property owners do not have the right to allow buildings to fall into such disrepair that the public is endangered.