North Carolina Eminent Domain Lawyers
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What Not to Do: Avoid These 6 Things When the Government Takes Your Land

If the NCDOT is coming for your property, what they take could have a huge impact on your home or business. What is so important that they have to take your property? There are a few types of projects that typically fall under the umbrella of “eminent domain.”  Here are some examples: Public works projects (i.e. road widening, highway construction, installation of new electric of plumbing lines) Libraries Police stations/fire stations Public parks New roads Public utilities Airports Water treatment facilities Military bases/defense buildings When you find yourself in this situation, there are steps you should take to try to ensure you get the most compensation possible. There are also some common mistakes you should avoid. NCDOT plans to take your property under eminent domain – now what? Eminent domain is a tricky, complicated, detail-oriented area.  As such, it is very possible to make many mistakes when deciding your next moves when this happens to you.  While your best bet is to seek the help of an experienced eminent domain attorney, in the meantime, we have compiled a list of some of the most important things to avoid. DON’T share more information than necessary with the government – while appraisers…

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Government Taking Your Land? Here Are Five Important Steps You Should Take

What would you do if your home or business was suddenly being taken away from you? Believe it or not, it happens all the time and it could happen to you: You receive a notice that the government is running an easement across your property. This has been your home for more than 20 years – the place you have raised your family and made countless memories. You’re nervous and unsure of what will happen to your home. You have no idea what, if anything, to do next. You are a business owner; you have put in years of hard work and dedication. Not only is it your career – your main source of income – but your employees have become like family. You built it from the ground up. Now, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has announced its intention to widen a road and, in order to do so, tear down your business. What are your options? Many people faced with these scenarios find themselves asking these looming questions. Unfortunately, as long as it is for a public use, the government is permitted to take your land.  However, that does not render you powerless. By law, they…

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Fewer Cars on the Road Leads to Delays in Eminent Domain Cases

COVID-19 Leads to Less Traffic in North Carolina As I drove on I-40 between Durham and Raleigh, I remember how surreal it felt. The sun was out, and the temperature was crisp, but despite being almost 5 P.M. on a Tuesday, there were few other cars around me. Usually I would be sitting in stop-and-go traffic for an hour, but with Governor Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order in effect, I was one of the few “essential” people still on the road. Suddenly, instead of 10,000 cars on the interstate, there were merely a few dozen. This was one of the first times I had seen the extensive impact of the global pandemic caused by COVID-19 with my own eyes. Less Traffic Results in Lower NCDOT Revenue Many of the effects of COVID-19 have been very visible: weddings are smaller, gyms have reduced occupancy, and we aren’t stopping to fill up our gas tanks nearly as frequently. With a substantial increase in layoffs and many workers taking advantage of technology to work from home, we simply aren’t driving nearly as much. While it’s easy to see some benefits of less driving, such as saving money and less pollution, there have been some…

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How to Try to Get the Most From Your Eminent Domain Land Taking

Receiving a phone call or letter from the government notifying you that they will be taking your property under the right of eminent domain can be daunting. You may feel like there’s nothing you can do, and you have many questions. What is the process like? What is going to happen to my family? Our land? Our business? How can I be assured I will be compensated fairly? Who can I trust? Knowledge is power. And understanding what will most likely happen may make the process a bit easier for you to endure. Here are some answers to questions our clients typically have. What is an eminent domain appraisal? An eminent domain appraisal can run from about 50 to 100 pages long. It only vaguely resembles the typical four- to five-page home appraisal most people are familiar with. Without eminent domain experience and a tremendous amount of time and research, it can be extremely difficult for many people to spot errors that an appraiser may have made. And they do make them. Appraising is not an exact science. The state-hired appraiser is a professional with experience in eminent domain appraisals. They will typically inspect your property (including the inside of…

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5 Things Property Owners Want to Know About Eminent Domain Compensation

You’ve received notice that the government is planning to take part of or all of your land for an eminent domain project. Now what? You know that, by law, you deserve fair compensation for damages to your home, land, and/or business as a result of the taking. But you have many questions relating to what exactly the state will and will not pay you for. 1. Won’t the Government Cover All Damages and Inconveniences? Some damages the state is not required to compensate you for. There may be a new road going in that blocks access to your driveway, or a median that makes it nearly impossible for you to get to work or take your kids to school in the mornings. Wouldn’t you assume that the government would automatically cover these damages and inconveniences you are forced to bear as a result of the median? The answer is usually no. Based on my experience (having worked as an attorney for the NC state government before joining the NC Eminent Domain Law firm) the best chance of receiving more compensation is to enlist the help of an experienced eminent domain attorney – the earlier in the process, the better. Most…

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How NC Eminent Domain Law Works: A Case Study of Duke and the Durham-Orange Light Rail

The government can condemn private homeowners’ property, home, or business under the law of eminent domain. But did you know that the government can also take on large, wealthy, and politically powerful entities like Duke University to gain the land they seek? Durham-Orange Light Rail, Duke, & Eminent Domain Law The decades-long plan to build the Durham-Orange Light Rail, a 17.7-mile light rail set to run between UNC Chapel Hill hospitals and NC Central University in Durham, has hit a snag. At the time this blog was posted (March 2019), Duke had yet to sign a commitment to the project, prompting Durham councilmembers to consider taking the portion of land they need from Duke through eminent domain. What is North Carolina Eminent Domain Law? Eminent domain, also known as “condemnation” or “land condemnation,” simply means that the government has the power and the legal right to take private property for public use. Both the federal and state governments have their own legislation in place for when either decides that someone’s land could be used to serve a public purpose. For North Carolina, eminent domain law is found in Chapters 40A & 136 of the NC General Statutes. How Does North Carolina…

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How to Potentially Get Paid, Even When the NCDOT’s “Fair Offer” Is Zero

Inverse condemnation is a funny thing. Not ha ha funny, but rather odd funny. It’s a back-handed way property owners can use to try to make the government pay them for damages an eminent domain project causes to their property. Advantages of Inverse Condemnation In simplistic terms, here is how inverse condemnation can potentially work to your advantage. When the state needs property for a road or other public project, it must purchase your property or file an eminent domain lawsuit to obtain the rights to your property. Under North Carolina eminent domain law, the state must pay you just compensation for damages caused to that property, whether it’s digging up your front yard for part of the road, or taking parking spaces from your business for a permanent utility easement. In order to pay you for damages, they must reach an agreement with you as to what is fair, or file an eminent domain lawsuit. If they do not file suit, but your property is damaged by the project, you can file an inverse condemnation lawsuit. This lawsuit will force the government to review the damages caused to your property, and either reach an agreement with you as to…

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Not Paid for Leased Space Under Eminent Domain? (What if You Could Get Paid?)

When you lease property that the NCDOT has condemned under eminent domain, they may often ignore your lease and/or may claim it is valueless and undeserving of just compensation. Sometimes that is true. But we have seen the NCDOT use this argument as a one-size-fits-all solution to the question regarding leases. Many Eminent Domain Scenarios are Potentially Negotiable No argument is one-size-fits-all and many are potentially negotiable – even when the NCDOT says it is not. You just need to know what to ask for, the right experts to help you ask for it, and try to prove your case. Sometimes, a successful outcome is dependent on having the right technological and staffing resources at your disposal. And sometimes you have to get creative in your thinking and research, as we had to do for two business partners who leased space for one of their KFC restaurants. “No Right to Compensation” These business partners were involved in a highly complex eminent domain scenario, for which the NCDOT said they had no legal claim to compensation. Technically they were correct. Despite that technicality, the complexity of their situation, and the NCDOT’s denial of compensation, we were able to convince them to…

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Tips for Handling Your Eminent Domain Case Alone

As you read through this checklist, ask yourself: “Would I rather have an experienced attorney complete these items for me?” If the answer is yes, don’t wait. If you hire an attorney early on a contingency basis, it costs you the same. This also reduces the risk of making a serious mistake.   We’ve found many people think it might be easier to deal with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) on their own. If you’re of that mindset, here’s a checklist that might be helpful as you spend what could be the next several months (sometimes years) fighting with the NCDOT for a fair offer for your property. Determine whether a second opinion in the form of an independent appraiser is necessary or helpful to your case. (This may not be as easy as you’d think. Here’s why.) Determine whether a local appraiser has the qualifications to perform an appraisal for an eminent domain case, and whether that appraiser would do well in front of a jury, if needed. Contact the condemning agency to obtain a copy of the plans as they relate to your property – and possibly nearby properties. Document every contact with the condemning agency,…

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Eminent Domain Attorneys Answer Top 5 Concerns

  Q&A With Eminent Domain Attorneys Stan Adams, Jason Campbell and Kenneth Bryan When property owners get a letter from the government stating that they plan to seize their home, business, or land under eminent domain for a new road or other project, they have a lot of questions. Eminent domain is complicated. And often that is why property owners come to us. There can be a lot of confusion and they want answers to their questions. We sat down with NC Eminent Domain Law Firm attorneys Stan Abrams, Jason Campbell, and Kenneth Bryan to discuss some key property owner concerns. 1. How do I know that what the government offers me is fair? Kenneth: When the government wants your land, North Carolina law says they must pay what’s fair. But “fair” is relative. We represented a cattle farmer whose land the government took and built a major highway clean through his ancestral property, forcing him to quit the cattle business. (And to boot, he had to drive 2 miles down the new highway just to get to the other side of his land.) Was that fair? Another client of ours, who had owned a seafood business in Durham for…

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