The law gives property owners significant rights over their premises. However, the Constitution gives the government the authority to take private property and convert it for public use. The government often takes private property to build schools, hospitals or highways. This government authority is called eminent domain.

Under eminent domain, the only requirements placed on the government to take private property are that the property has to be taken for public use and the property owner must be given “just compensation” by the government.  

Property owners often find that the government’s “just compensation” is inadequate. Litigation over the value of the property is common. Sometimes property owners challenge the legality of the government’s reasons for taking the property.

If your property is being threatened by road construction or other government projects, contact a Greensboro eminent domain lawyer at Ward Black Law today. You can learn more about your legal rights and options at no charge. We handle eminent domain cases anywhere in North Carolina.

What Is Eminent Domain?

Eminent domain refers to the authority of the government to take private property to be used for public purposes. The government’s eminent domain authority stems from the “Takings Clause” of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, while the Takings Clause gives the government eminent domain authority, restrictions are placed on its use.

For the government to exercise its eminent domain authority, it must be taking private property solely for the purpose of converting that property into public use or to serve the public benefit. The government is required to provide the property owner with just compensation for the property.

The government’s exercise of eminent domain is called a “taking.” The law recognizes several different kinds of takings, including:

  • A complete taking, where the entire property is seized from the property owner
  • A partial taking, where only a portion of the property is taken by the government
  • A temporary taking, where a piece of property is needed by the government for a limited duration

The law recognizes that the government’s actions can affect private property in various ways. For instance, the taking may impact the owner’s quiet enjoyment of the property. Another example: the taking may change or limit the ways the property can be used, decreasing the property’s value.

What Is Land Condemnation?

Land condemnation refers to the process by which the government exercises its eminent domain powers. In the condemnation process, the government initiates a legal action or files a declaration of taking to take the physical possession and legal title of a property.

The owner of the property is entitled to notice of the condemnation. Any legal challenge to condemnation is limited to a challenge about the property’s “public use” or a challenge to the amount of compensation.

If a court finds that the government is taking the property for public use, a landowner cannot stop the condemnation process. The owner can only seek to increase the amount of compensation received for the property.

Understanding the Eminent Domain Process in North Carolina

The eminent domain process in North Carolina begins when a government agency announces a project and identifies private properties that may be taken in “condemnation” for the project. “Condemn” in this instance means to take away property from the lawful owner.

Once the condemning agency decides to “condemn” a particular piece of property, it will appraise the property after conducting an inspection (with 30 days’ notice to the owner). The appraisal will form the basis of the government agency’s calculation of just compensation for the property.

In some cases, the condemning agency like the North Carolina Department of Transportation will engage in negotiations with the property owner to have the owner convey the property without the need for the agency to file a condemnation action or a declaration of taking. However, most agencies are not required to first engage in negotiations and may simply instead file an eminent domain complaint or a declaration of taking.

If the property owner is satisfied with the government’s just compensation value, the owner does not need to answer the complaint. The court will ultimately enter a final judgment, and the owner can petition the court for disbursement of the just compensation the agency paid into court. After a complaint or declaration is filed and the agency deposits just compensation with the court, the court will issue an order placing the agency in possession of the property.

The property owner can challenge the calculation of just compensation by requesting the appointment of commissioners. The commissioners are three disinterested property owners residing in the community. The commissioners will hear evidence and testimony and prepare a report for a determination of damages. Either party can appeal the commissioners’ report and demand a trial by judge or jury on the issue of just compensation.

How a Greensboro Eminent Domain Attorney Can Help

If your property has been condemned for taking by a government agency, a Greensboro eminent domain attorney can help you by:

  • Investigating the basis for the taking to determine whether the government’s stated purpose meets the “public use” requirement
  • Working with real estate appraisal experts to develop a calculation for your property’s fair market value to help develop a strong argument in favor of increased compensation for your property
  • Aggressively negotiating to increase the government’s offer of just compensation for your property

If your property is being subjected to taking by eminent domain, contact us for a free, no-obligation case evaluation with an eminent domain attorney from Ward Black Law in Greensboro, North Carolina. You can discuss your property and learn more about your legal rights and options in the condemnation process anywhere in North Carolina.