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Massachusetts law about eminent domain

A compilation of laws, regulations, and web sources on the right of the government to take private property for public use.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.79 Eminent domain ("quick take" primary eminent domain law)

MGL c.79A Relocation assistance

MGL c.80A Eminent domain takings and betterment assessments by judicial proceedings

Massachusetts regulations

760 CMR 25.05 Department of  Housing and Community Development - Procedure for obtaining approval of the use of eminent domain by a M.G.L. c.121A entity  

930 CMR 6:15 State Ethics Commission – Exemption of eminent domain settlements 

990 CMR 15 Hazardous Waste Facility Site Safety Council – Eminent domain

Selected case law

Abuzahra v. City of Cambridge, 486 Mass. 818 (2021)
"G. L. c. 79 permits the plaintiff to both accept a pro tanto payment and simultaneously challenge the validity of the underlying taking."

Byfield v. City of Newton, 247 Mass. 46 (1923)
The requirements of governing statutes must be strictly observed for eminent domain takings.

Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks, Lodge No. 65 v. Planning Board of Lawrence, 403 Mass. 531 (1988) 
For eminent domain to be lawful, the taking has to be for a public purpose.

Correia v. New Bedford Redevelopment Authority, 375 Mass. 360, 361 (1978)
“The measure of damages is the fair market value of the property at the time of the taking.  Fair market value is defined as the highest price which a hypothetical willing buyer would pay to a hypothetical willing seller in an assumed free and open market.”

Skyline Homes v. Commonwealth, 362 Mass. 684 (1972)
Just compensation can include the potential uses of land even if a use was legally prohibited at the time of taking as long as there is a reasonable prospect that the prohibition would be removed in the future. 

Web sources

Uniform appraisal standards for federal land acquisitions
Commonly known as the “Yellow Book,” these standards are used for “the valuation of real estate in federal acquisitions.”

Eminent domain brochure, Mass. Department of Transportation, Highway Division, 2011
"The purpose of this brochure is to explain the eminent domain land acquisition process, and answer frequently asked questions about the process."

Eminent domain law guide for Massachusetts, Eminent Domain Help.
Covers who can take property by eminent domain, steps in the process, the rights of property owners, and information about compensation. It also includes information for owners of commercial, industrial, and agricultural property.

Print sources

Crocker’s notes on common forms, 10th ed., MCLE,  looseleaf, chapter 28.

LexisNexis practice guide: Massachusetts real estate litigation, annual edition, chapter 6.

Massachusetts municipal law, 2d ed. MCLE,  looseleaf, chapter 30.

Municipal law and practice, 5th ed. (Mass. Practice Series v. 18B) West, 2006 with supplement, chapter 28.

Nichols’ the law of eminent domain, 3rd ed., Matthew Bender, looseleaf.

Prima facie case: proof and defense, 5th ed. (Mass. practice series v.17A), West, 2005 with supplement, chapter 50.

Real estate law with forms, (Mass. practice series v.28A), West, annual edition, chapter 18.

Real estate title practice in Massachusetts, 3rd ed., MCLE, loose-leaf, chapter 12.



Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only


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Last updated: February 23, 2021