Delaware Property Rights

Delaware Property Rights

Since the decision by the United States Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London many states across the country have taken measures to help protect the rights of private ownership.  The controversial Kelo decision held that a local government can take the private property of one person and give it to another private entity.  While the Court’s ruling was seen by many as a serious blow to citizen’s constitutionally protected rights of private property ownership, the decision prompted a number of states to initiate legislative reform to help curb eminent domain abuse.

The Castle Coalition has released a report, grading each of the states based on their efforts to protect private property owners and their rights based on changes in their respective state laws.  The Castle Coalition is the Institute for Justice’s nationwide grassroots property rights activism project that teaches home and small business owners how to protect themselves and stand up to abuse by governments and developers who seek to use eminent domain to take private property for their own gain.  Stated below is the letter grade, as given by the Castle Coalition, along with a description of the changes that have occurred since Kelo v. City of New London.

Delaware Castle Coalition letter grade of

delaware eminent domain

Prior to the signing of Senate Bill 217 in 2005, the state of Delaware created a state commission that was designed to study the use of eminent domain and how to curb abuse. The bill requires cities to provide a plan that includes the intention of use for the condemned property, and how the taking will fulfill the public use definition. The bill also changed the condemning party from a condemning agency to the court, where now the court determines compensation for challenges for just compensation. Unfortunately, this bill provided little reform because the public use definition is vague and doesn’t address how condemning authorities can use the term blight on neighborhoods and communities.  In 2009 the legislature overwhelmingly passed S.B. 7 and the bill was signed into law by the governor.  S.B. 7 restricts eminent domain to its traditional uses (roads, schools, parks and police stations) while still allowing for the construction of utilities and the power of local governments to acquire properties that pose a direct threat to public health and safety.


The state of Delaware has made significant reforms in the time since Kelo v. City of New London. While Senate Bill 217 provided very little protection for businesses and property owners, leaving loopholes for condemning authorities to get around, with the passage of S.B. 7 much of those concerns have been alleviated.   Click to read more on Senate Bill 7.

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