Eminent Domain – North Carolina
Eminent Domain, or land condemnation, refers to the power of the government to involuntarily take private property from a person and convert it into public use. The basis of the government’s eminent domain power stems from the takings clause of the 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution which states in part that “private property shall [not be] taken for public use, without just compensation.” In a nutshell, the government cannot take the private property of a client without paying the fair value of the property to be taken.
What is Eminent Domain?
When you receive notice that the government wants to take your land, you may feel intimidated and pressured to accept the government’s contentions regarding their need for and value of your land. Remember, that you are not required to accept the government’s offer, you still have a choice.
You also may have questions about the condemnation process and that is where an eminent domain attorney comes in to help. There are a few common questions we often receive from individuals who receive notice that the government intends to take their land.
Claiming Private Property with Eminent Domain
The first question we often get is, “Can I refuse to sell my land to the government?” Unfortunately, the answer is often “no.” The government only has to show that the taking is for “public use” and that the taking is “necessary.” So, if the government wants to expand a two-lane highway into a four-lane highway, the government would be allowed to take all or part of your property required to expand the road. However, there is a caveat. The government may only take the portion of your property that is required for the project. For example, if the government only needs twenty feet of a 10-acre parcel to widen a road and move the related utility lines, the government would only be allowed to take twenty feet of your land and no more.
How is “Just Compensation” Determined for Private Property?
The second question that we often receive is, “The government just offered me ______, is that a fair value for my land?” The answer to that question is the most litigated issue in an eminent domain process and is heavily dependent on each client’s situation. By law, the government should consider the value of your property, not just as it is now, but also as the highest and best usage of your property. The government may offer a value for your land that appears fair on its face but is actually much lower than what is “just compensation” under the law. Be wary of accepting what the government tells you at face value.
What to do if I Recieve a Notice of Eminent Domain?
We at the Mast Firm are uniquely qualified to represent clients going through eminent domain litigation. Not only have we represented numerous clients in eminent domain litigation, but we have also had to protect our own land during the eminent domain process. The State of North Carolina is currently using the condemnation process to take part of our land where our 40/42 office is located. So we understand what it is like to receive an unsolicited letter from the government stating that they will take your land. We can appreciate what it is like to receive those complicated, color-coded maps with dozens of acronyms. We recognize what it is like to have uninvited state employees survey your land and drive stakes into your property. We understand what it is like to receive an initial offer that does not fully compensate you for what the government is taking. Simply put, we know what you are going through!
If you have any additional questions about whether the government’s intended usage of your property is for “public use” or whether the government’s offer is actually “just compensation,” or if you just want to talk about the process in general, feel free to give the Mast Law Firm a call at 919-661-2005 for a free consultation. We work on eminent domain cases for you on a contingency fee basis. Meaning, we are only paid a percentage of the money we recover for your property above the government’s original offer.
Don’t let the government make you feel helpless. Take action and protect your land.