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The constitutional authority and inherent power of a state to adopt and enforce laws and regulations to promote and support the public health, safety, morals, and general welfare. Such laws must be uniform in operation and nondiscriminatory, and cannot be advantageous to any one particular person or group. In essence, it is an authority derived from individual state constitutions, which also vest the power in counties, cities, and municipalities to adopt and enforce appropriate local ordinances and regulations that are not in conflict with general laws. Some examples of police power are the right to tax, the right to regulate land use through a general plan and zoning, the right to require persons selling real estate to be licensed, the right to regulate pollution, environmental control, and rent control.

Traditional concepts of the police power have been broadened in recent years to include the furtherance of the aesthetic beauty of the community. For example, courts have upheld an ordinance restricting advertising in state parks, and have upheld the regulation of the appearance of a community through design review boards.

Also derived from police power is the right to damage or destroy private property (without compensation to the owner) when such an act is necessary to protect the public interest. This may happen, for example, when a condominium unit is on fire and the fire department must destroy an adjoining unit to extinguish the fire and save the rest of the building. Although the government would not be required to compensate an owner for such destruction, a valid claim may be filed against the insurance policy covering the burning unit or against the owner’s own policy. Although police power permits the state to regulate the use of an individual’s property in order to protect public health, safety, and welfare, such regulation has its limits. If it goes too far, it is recognized as a “taking,” which requires that the state pay just compensation to the individual affected.
Dearborn Real Estate Education
This "Word of the day" is excerpted from The Language of Real Estate, 6th Edition by John Reilly (published by Dearborn Real Estate Education, 2006 copyright). To purchase the complete book, with over 2800 key terms and definitions, or to browse through Dearborn's hundreds of other professional real estate titles, including Real Estate Technology Guide by Klein, Barnett, Reilly, click here.