What Is Requisitioned Property?

Requisitioned property is property that is involuntarily seized by a governmental authority for any reason. Requisitioned property can be taken for a number of reasons relating to the furtherance of the public good. It can be of any type, including real estate, vehicles, machinery, office equipment, or even personal property.

Key Takeaways

  • Requisitioned property is private property that has been involuntarily seized by the government.
  • Any type of property can be requisitioned, including real estate, machinery, vehicles, factories, and all types of personal property.
  • When the government requisitions property, the owner of the property is entitled to just compensation for the seizure.
  • Today, the most common reason property is requisitioned is under eminent domain.
  • Eminent domain requisitions property for the facilitation of public goods or services in a community.
  • Property can also be requisitioned under Acts of Congress, such as the War Powers Act during World War II.

Understanding Requisitioned Property

Requisitioned property can be treated as an involuntary conversion. Property sold under the threat of requisition can also be treated as a conversion if the threat is believed to be genuine and imminent. However, the threat of requisition must be confirmed by an actual government official and cannot be derived solely from a public announcement. In most cases, the requisition will be presented as a formal written demand.

In the United States, the government must provide the original owner of the requisitioned property with just compensation for said property, as required by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. This compensation may not reflect the full market value.

When only a portion of the property is requisitioned, such as in the case of requisitioning a part of someone's home to widen a road, just compensation is generally calculated using the fair market value of the property, plus severance damages reflecting the decrease in value of the original property now that it is smaller. However, if the partial requisition increases the value of the remaining property, that increase in value will be deducted from the just compensation the owner receives.

If the original owner of the property refuses the just compensation offered, the government will still requisition the property but will give the original owner 75% of the value of the just compensation offered, leaving the owner with the right to sue the government for the rest of the property’s value.

Requisitioned Property Under Eminent Domain

In the United States, property is typically requisitioned under the legal doctrine of eminent domain, which refers to the power of the state or federal government to seize private property for public use.

Most often, property is requisitioned through eminent domain to facilitate the building or improvement of roads, public utilities, and government facilities or buildings. The government may also requisition property in order to transfer it to a third party, such as a land developer that can develop the property to increase tax revenues for the government in question.

Eminent domain covers all property, not just land, but also airspace, contract rights, leases, stocks, and intellectual property if the argument can be made that the property can be used for the public good.

The requisition of private property via eminent domain is generally done through the courts in what is known as condemnation proceedings, where the owner can argue the legality of the requisition.

Requisitioned Property Through Acts of Congress

Property can also be requisitioned via Acts of Congress, transferring ownership of the specified property directly to the government. This is primarily done during wartime. For example, in 1941, an act of Congress authorized the President to requisition property for the defense of the nation under the War Powers Act.

The purpose of the Act was to give the President significant power to be able to execute World War II in a manner that would allow for efficiency and eventual victory. This type of Act would and did allow the government to requisition warehouses or factories to build weapons and aircraft, for example.

The requisitioning of property through Acts of Congress in relation to war have not been used since World War II, as the U.S. has not been in a state of all-out war since then where the need for such a large scale effort was required.