Rhode Island Eminent Domain Laws

Pursuant to Rhode Island law, all entities delegated eminent domain powers under the laws of this state may exercise such powers consistent with other restrictions and limitations established by law, rule, regulation, or ordinance, to acquire property for the following purposes:

  • Providing for public ownership and use;
  • Providing for transportation infrastructure including, but not limited to, roads, highways, bridges, and associated ramps;
  • Providing for public utilities, including telecommunications, and for common carriers;
  • Eliminating an identifiable public harm and/or correcting conditions adversely affecting public health, safety, morals, or welfare, including, but not limited to, the elimination and prevention of blighted and substandard areas, as defined by chapter 45-31, and correcting conditions of environmental contamination that pose a significant risk to the public health, correcting and repairing facilities, and correcting conditions from damages that result from a declared disaster;
  • Providing good and marketable title that is free and clear of liens and encumbrances when property is to be acquired or is to be conveyed for any of the purposes set forth in subsections (a) — (d) of this section[i].

No entity subject to the provisions of the chapter shall exercise eminent powers to acquire any property for economic development purposes unless it has explicit authority to do so and unless it conforms to the provisions of this section.  The entity shall have a plan for the proposed development, which shall be approved by the governing body of the entity prior to the initiation of any eminent domain proceeding, which plan shall set forth the purposes of the development, the intended benefits to the community, the necessary infrastructure improvements, the presence and correction of any substandard conditions and/or environmental hazards, and the parcels which will be acquired in order to effectuate the plan.  In addition, the plan shall include provisions and/or analyses which can support a rational-basis determination that potential takings by eminent domain inure a preponderance of benefits to the public with only incidental benefits to a private party or parties. The plan shall only be adopted after public notice of not less than fourteen days, a public hearing, and a period for public comment of not less than thirty days.  Where other applicable planning requirements are established by law, those planning requirements shall not be deemed to be superceded by the requirements of this subsection, provided, that the plan prepared pursuant to such planning requirements substantially addresses the matter specified in this subsection and the opportunity for public review and comment is no less than that provided for by this subsection.

The entity shall give the owners of property which may be acquired by eminent domain advanced notice of the potential taking and shall provide the opportunity to sell the property for a negotiated, mutually agreed upon price.  Except for taking of temporary easements and partial takings subject to the provisions of § 42-64.12-10, no local government entity shall implement any eminent domain proceeding for economic development purposes unless the acquisition of the property by eminent domain has been approved by the city or town council, and no state government entity shall implement any eminent domain proceeding for economic development purposes unless the acquisition of the property by eminent domain has been approved by an act of the general assembly[ii].

Owners of property taken for economic development purposes shall be compensated for:

  • A minimum of one hundred fifty percent (150%) of the fair market value of the real property.
  • Expenses incidental to transfer of ownership to the acquiring entity, including, but not limited to, recording fees and transfer taxes, evidence of title and surveys and legal descriptions, penalty costs and other charges for prepaying mortgages entered into in good faith, a pro rata share of any prepaid property taxes or assessments for public utilities.
  • Relocation expenses, including, but not limited to, actual, reasonable and necessary moving and reestablishment expenses[iii].

Residents who are tenants of property taken for economic development purposes shall be compensated for:

  • A minimum of one hundred fifty percent (150%) of one month’s rent of such dwelling.
  • Relocation expenses, including, but not limited to, actual, reasonable and necessary moving and reestablishment expenses[iv].

The planning requirements and the restrictions established by this chapter shall not apply to condemnations for easements or other partial takings for less than five years duration where the effect of the taking is not the ousting of the owner from possession or the displacing of a lawful occupant[v].  If any provision of the statute, or the application thereof to any person or circumstances, shall be held invalid, any invalidity shall not affect the provisions of this chapter which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of the chapter are declared to be severable[vi].

[i] R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-64.12-6.

[ii] R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-64.12-7.

[iii] R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-64.12-8.

[iv] R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-64.12-8.1.

[v] R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-64.12-10.

[vi] R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-64.12-11


Inside Rhode Island Eminent Domain Laws