North Carolina Property Law – The Power of Eminent Domain
Have you been notified that your home, land or business is being condemned by a government agency for a roadway project, an airport expansion, reservoir, construction project, electric lines, a new school, library or other public project?
As a property owner in North Carolina, the law requires that fair and just compensation be paid to you when your property is taken for public use. Don’t panic if they offer you what you believe to be a very low price. You cannot be forced to take whatever the government offers. You should speak with an experienced eminent domain attorney regarding your rights.
More than likely, the government entity that started the process will send representatives to talk with you about the project and the taking of your property. Typically these agents are very experienced when it comes to dealing with property owners in a condemnation situation. Since this is their job, they will definitely have more experience at it than the average property owner.
It is important not to give the agent too much information about your thoughts on the value of your property. You should receive copies of their official maps and other reports about the project. Gather all the documentation the agents can provide so your attorney can evaluate your case. The sooner you consult with an experienced condemnation attorney, the more likely you can avoid a big mistake.
A condemnor cannot officially take title to your property it is trying to condemn until a lawsuit is actually filed with the court. However, before a lawsuit is filed, it is likely that the condemnor will give you a pre-lawsuit written offer to purchase your land and/or a notice of intent to take your property. The condemnor will typically give you a written offer of value for your property while trying to settle the transfer without having to file a lawsuit. You are not obligated to accept this offer. You’ll probably be better off to hold out and get the help of an attorney who specializes in handling eminent domain cases. An attorney can help make sure you get fair compensation for your property.
North Carolina Property Laws
In North Carolina, our property law requires that a jury, made up of people within your community, decide at trial the amount of just compensation you are to receive for the taking of your property. If the pre-lawsuit negotiations are unsuccessful with the condemnor, you are guaranteed by the laws of North Carolina for a trial by jury to determine the fair amount you should be paid for your property.
A condemnation attorney will retain qualified professionals to help establish the just compensation damages you should receive. In many cases, an experience eminent domain attorney will hire a complete team to help determine the fair value of your property. Their team may consist of qualified appraisers, real estate agents, environmental engineers, civil engineers, land planners, surveyors and other experts.
Each of these professionals will be experienced in these type cases and can help determine a value based on the highest and best use of your property.
Eminent Domain – Pre-trial Settlement
In much the same way, the condemnor will have a team of their own professionals attempting to justify a much lower price than you may be satisfied with. You can see why it is important to have an attorney on your side to help negotiate the highest value. If you can’t come to an agreement during the pre-trial settlement phase then it is likely that a jury will decide the just compensation amount.
You are probably not excited about being forced into a situation where your property is being taken away. But if you are, there are a few important actions to take to help your situation: