North Carolina Eminent Domain Lawyers

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An Easy-to-Understand Breakdown of Utility Easements

When the government is taking your land, there are several different classifications for what they are taking. In the law, we call these “interests in real property.” When you purchased your property, you most likely bought it in “fee simple.” What this means is that you own the property in its entirety. You can grant your mother a life estate, divide the land, sell it, or grant your neighbor an easement. Easements are complicated bits of law. This blog is the first part in our three-part series on easements. Here, we will cover permanent utility easements. An Overview of Easements When the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) or another government entity takes your property for a project, they may take a less than a full ownership interest, such as an easement. The North Carolina courts have defined an easement as “a non-possessory right to make limited use of land owned by another without taking a part thereof.” What this means is you still own the underlying land and can generally do what you want with the property as long as it does not interfere with the easement holder’s use and enjoyment of the easement. On the flip side, the…

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Superstreets Takings: Why They Are Built and What Your Rights Are

What Is a “Superstreet?”

Your property is your investment.

And the type of road that runs in front of or alongside your property can have a significant impact on its value (ex. – few homeowners want to live beside a roaring interstate!).

As land condemnation attorneys in NC, we often represent property owners who live along roads that are being widened or changed and these changes often affect their homes or businesses. One question we’ve heard a lot in recent years is:

“What on earth is a ‘superstreet’?”

Superstreets seem to be the NCDOT’s latest fad, and it appears they’re here to stay. Below, we’ll explain what a superstreet is, and why they’re gaining so much popularity in NC.

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The Law Is Stacked Against You – How Eminent Domain Is Legal (But Often Unfair) to Property Owners

Anyone who has heard me speak at eminent domain seminars knows that I tend to discuss how the eminent domain laws in North Carolina can seem like they’re stacked against the property owner whose land is being taken by the government.

Here’s why it may seem like the laws are not in your favor.

The Government Is Legally Allowed to Overlook Certain Real Estate Laws
Laws are written by the legislature, elected officials who must stretch every government dollar – your tax dollars – as thinly as possible. These laws are then interpreted by appellate judges who serve on the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court. They are not trial judges, and typically they don’t hear directly from property owners or condemning authorities. They are not real estate professionals either.

The legislature and appellate courts can allow the government to purchase or condemn land from property owners and pay less than what the property would fetch on the open market. While this may seem unfair, it is perfectly legal and not uncommon.

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Condemnation 101: How Is My Property Appraised for an Eminent Domain Taking?

Condemnation, or eminent domain, is a complicated legal process that involves taking your land for public use. However, the government cannot just take your land. The law requires that just compensation be provided in an eminent domain taking. How “just compensation” is defined is usually a matter of interpretation, and it is often at the center of legal disputes over eminent domain.

The N.C. Department of Transportation or another condemning authority will get an appraisal of your property to determine its value and the just compensation it thinks you deserve. Just compensation is defined as the fair-market value of your property, which is the price that a willing buyer would pay to a willing seller in an open market.

However, there are several reasons why the appraisal offered to you during condemnation may not be an accurate reflection of the fair-market value of your property.

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CEDAR POINT NURSERY et al. v. HASSID et al.

Eminent Domain Ruling from the United States Supreme Court May Expand Protections for Property Owners In June of 2021, the United States Supreme Court ruled on Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid, one of the most important eminent domain cases in recent years. In a 6-3 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the Court’s opinion joined by Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett. In the majority’s opinion, the Court ruled that a California state regulation that granted labor organizations the right to take access to an agricultural employer’s property to solicit support for unionization was a per se physical taking which requires just compensation under the 5th and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution. This decision may very well mark the beginning of an ideological shift toward greater protections for property owners against local, state, and federal governments.  To understand the importance of this case to property owners nationwide, we should start at the beginning. Understanding the Background of Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid – An Easement Issue At first glance, this case may seem like it is a labor relations case dealing with when a union can talk with workers. California passed the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of…

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Tips for Handling Your Eminent Domain Case Alone

When it comes to hiring an attorney for a land condemnation, some may shy away at first because they think it might cost too much money. At the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm, we believe nothing could be further from the truth. We’ve often seen the opposite to be true. As you read through the following steps, ask yourself, “Would I rather have an experienced attorney complete these items for me?” If the answer is yes, don’t wait. We believe you reduce the risk of making a serious mistake by hiring an attorney early on a contingency basis. Since we’ve been in business, we’ve increased the average offer for our clients by 202.5%.* Steps to Take to Attempt Settling Your Eminent Domain Case Before Condemnation Land condemnation is when the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) files a lawsuit against you and legally assumes ownership of all, or a portion of, your property. Prior to this stage of the eminent domain process, there are many steps to take if you want to contest the NCDOT’s claim or compensation offer. If you think that it might be easier to deal with the NCDOT on your own, here’s a checklist that might…

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NCDOT Projects Delayed By the Pandemic: 3 Suggestions for Property Owners

In March we posted about the financial woes of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. The NCDOT had pre-existing budget issues that were compounded by a sudden plunge in revenue as the traffic volumes dropped dramatically last year. State estimates put the decrease in daily traffic down as much as 50% in April and May 2020. As of April 27, 2020, the NCDOT was projecting a $300 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year ending June 30th with significant impacts on the next fiscal year of nearly $370 million. The Budget Shortfall Raised Issues for Owners in the Path of Projects Across the State In order to absorb the hit of this shortfall, the NCDOT has taken cost-reduction actions, delaying payment for many settlements agreed to before the extent of the budget issues was fully known. Additionally, projects across the state were placed on hold so the NCDOT could complete construction of projects already underway. In 2020 the NCDOT announced that they were delaying many of their projects. Because many of these projects were delayed from mid-2020 to mid-2021, we expect to see a sharp increase in projects moving forward and Right…

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7 Reasons NOT to Wait for the Government’s Offer Before Hiring an Eminent Domain Attorney

We speak with a lot of property owners who are losing their land to different government agencies. They own different types of property and are in various stages in the condemnation process, but we almost always get the same question: Should I wait for the government to make me an offer before hiring an attorney? The answer is an almost always no! You should contact an attorney as soon as possible! Here are seven reasons you may need an attorney now and why waiting for the government to make the first move is likely against your best interest. #1: We Don’t Get Paid Unless We Get the Government to Increase Its Offer We believe in dealing with everyone fairly and honestly, and part of that philosophy includes not taking money we didn’t earn. That is why our fee is based on any increase we are able to get you over and above that initial offer. We can often help you increase that offer to advise you early in the process of what to say and, more importantly, what not to say when the government shows up at your door. Whether the NCDOT, your city, or an energy company is taking…

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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 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. 1. DON’T share more information than necessary with the government While appraisers and agents are often friendly and personable, they will not hesitate to use your words against you. It is better to play it safe by giving them as little information as possible;…

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