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When a government agency or other authorized entity wants to take private property and convert it to public use—widening a road, building a hospital, or expanding a fire station, for example—it is typically able to do so through the power of eminent domain.

In some cases, the entity may offer to purchase the land or may ask that the property be gifted to the public; however, no such offer or request is required by law. If a property owner refuses a purchase offer, or if no such offer is made, the agency wishing to exercise eminent domain begins a process called “land condemnation.”

North Carolina law stipulates the land condemnation process for both public condemnors (government agencies, for example) and private condemnors (such as school boards or railroad companies).

In either case, the person whose property is being condemned under eminent domain has the right to be represented by a Raleigh eminent domain attorney in order to ensure that his or her property is not taken in violation of state and federal law, and if the condemnation is appropriate under eminent domain law, that the person is awarded “just compensation” for the loss of his or her property as required by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

What to Do if Your Property is Condemned

Although the process differs for public condemnors and private condemnors, when the condemnor decides to pursue land condemnation in an exercise of eminent domain, the condemnor must provide notice to the property owner.

According to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 40A-40, a public condemnor has to provide notice of intent to condemn the property no less than 30 days before filing a complaint. The notice must include the following:

  • Clear notice of intent to condemn
  • A description of the property
  • The condemnor’s estimate of just compensation
  • The purpose for which the property is to be taken
  • A “plain language” summary of owner’s rights, including the right to seek injunctive relief and the right to answer the complaint after it has been filed
  • An advisement for the owner to seek legal counsel

If you receive a Notice of Condemnation, contact an attorney who protects owners’ rights in eminent domain and land condemnation proceedings.

How an Attorney Handles Land Condemnation Cases

As soon as possible after receiving a notice of condemnation, you should contact a lawyer to discuss your case. You have a limited time under North Carolina law to respond to the complaint. Trying to negotiate with the condemnor, asking for more money than is listed as a just compensation estimate, or simply telling the condemnor you refuse to allow your property to be taken are not considered legal responses. Your answer to the condemnation complaint must be formally filed in court.

When meeting with a Raleigh land condemnation lawyer, bring documents pertaining to the ownership and value of your property as well as any condemnation documents you receive:

  • Notice of Condemnation
  • Names of right-of-way agents or contractors
  • Deeds and mortgage agreements
  • Purchase offers and sale contracts
  • Property tax bills
  • Photos of the property
  • Lists of repairs or improvements to the property, with before and after pictures if possible
  • Bills for repairs and renovations to the property

The above documents can help your lawyer understand if the condemnation of your property is a constitutional use of eminent domain, and if so, can help the attorney get a clearer picture of whether the condemnor’s estimate of just compensation is accurate or if the fair market value of your property is greater.

Common Mistakes Following Notice of Land Condemnation

Land condemnation is a complex process, and it is one which most people never face. Knowing what to do and what not to do can be difficult. It is important to hire a Raleigh land condemnation lawyer who can help protect your rights and help you avoid mistakes.

Some of the most common mistakes in a land condemnation case include the following:

  • Accepting the estimate of “just compensation” without getting an appraisal from a third party
  • Attempting to negotiate with condemnors or right-of-way agents without going through the legal process of answering the complaint
  • Failing to get legal representation
  • Failing to understand how the taking of a portion of the property can impact the value of the remainder
  • Threatening condemnors who are allowed to be on the property prior to condemnation
  • Thinking of land condemnation as a way to get more than the fair market value of the property

If you receive a Notice of Condemnation, or if you suspect land condemnation proceedings are imminent, contact a Raleigh land condemnation attorney who works with property owners to protect their rights.