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Illinois property: What is the difference between private rights and public rights?

Illinois property: What is the difference between private rights and public rights?


When a person in Illinois owns a piece of property, whether it be public or private, they are given specific rights. These may include some of the following:

  • The right to use the property how they see fit
  • The right to earn income from the operations that occur on the property
  • The right to enforce the privileges they are entitled to for owning the property
  • The right to transfer ownership of the property to others

However, these rights can vary drastically depending on where the real estate is located and what the specific community or culture acknowledges, enforces and chooses to enforce.

Public rights

Public property refers to any property owned by the government on a local, state or federal level. Typically, public property includes structures like government office buildings, public parks, public areas and pieces of infrastructure, like roadways. Since governments own these properties, the property rights they are given are determined by local officials.

For example, on a public roadway that is maintained and owned by the government, local authorities have the right to put restrictions on what types of vehicles are allowed to drive on these roads and are given the ability to control the speed limit. In public parks, government officials may enact rules prohibiting visitors from digging holes in the ground, bringing certain pets with them or cutting down trees.

Private rights

In comparison, private property refers to any piece of property owned by an individual or by a group of individuals who run a business or organization together. Since these properties are not owned by the government, the owners, under their property owner private rights, govern how their property can be used, even if it is open to the public.

For example, if a person owns a private park and allows others to come and enjoy it, those who come to the park do not have the right to change the landscaping or install playground equipment without the owner’s permission. Or, on a piece of residential property, those who come into the home do not have the right to destroy any of the owner’s personal belongings or engage in any behaviors that might offend the property owner.

Although the rights given to private and public property owners are designed to give them control over what happens on their property, public and private property rights often conflict. Those who believe that the rights given to them as a property owner by their local community have been violated may benefit from speaking with an attorney who can provide guidance and direction.

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