Business Condemnation

When the government comes for your business property, you’ll have many questions about your rights as a business owner. We have answers.

How Can a Business Condemnation Lawyer Help Me?

As someone who owns a business, an eminent domain taking is one of the most disruptive things you can possibly face. You could temporarily or permanently lose access, utilities, parking, or even the building. What can you do about it?

The answer depends on your situation, but an attorney can help you fight for your rights and seek maximum compensation for what you’re losing. Here are some examples of the challenges business owners face, and how an experienced eminent domain lawyer can make a difference.

Can the government take the land from under my business?

The land is precisely what an eminent domain taking is after. When the government takes a commercial property under eminent domain, it’s taking the land entirely or taking property rights from the land. The business, the buildings, the asphalt on the parking lot – they only matter to the extent they are adding value to the property as whole. It’s all about the property, and compensation does not include the value of the business on the property. If your business can’t survive without the land they take, you have two options: close or move.

An eminent domain attorney helps by: Explaining your rights – even when it seems like you don’t have any. You absolutely do, and you want someone on your side to help explain them. We’ll also tell you what you can and cannot seek compensation for.

Does the government compensate me if my business must close?

The government’s interest is in the property, and not the business on the property. If the business must close due to an eminent domain taking, it does not generally have to provide any compensation over the cost of the land, buildings, and other improvements being acquired. However, the government’s initial offer for the land is generally very low in our experience.

It may also depend on whether or not your business could conceivably move to a similar location within a reasonable distance. These cases can get complicated, and we highly recommend having an eminent domain attorney to represent your best interests.

An eminent domain attorney helps by: Knowing how to try to find as many modes of compensation as possible. We don’t simply help communication between you and the condemning authority, although that is part of our job. We are most interested in helping you fight for maximum compensation, and that involves a lot of legwork, research, hiring experts, conducting our own reviews, and hunting through the law and the project to uncover possible ways you may be compensated.

Does the government compensate me if my business must move?

Eminent domain-related relocation expenses are available as compensation according to eminent domain law. If your business must relocate due to an eminent domain taking, you can seek expenses related to the move and covered in law. This can include money spent searching for a new location, utility deposits, and the physical act of moving which can be quite high.

An eminent domain attorney helps by: Understanding what is and is not included in the government’s initial offer, and what to negotiate for on your behalf. For example, relocation expenses will not always be part of the government’s initial offer. The government may not realize the full impact of their project and believe your business can continue in operation. It may be critical to have an experienced attorney who knows the potential issues which are often overlooked.

Can the government take over my business?

The government is only interested in the land. Your business is immaterial to them, and it has no interest in “taking over.” However, if your business is predicated on a specific location or building, the government will be taking your business away when it takes the land, assuming the building or necessary structure must be demolished.

An eminent domain attorney can help by: Ensuring you have the legally allowable amount of time to find a new place of business. This can include helping owners ask the right questions of the DOT about relocation expenses directly related to the nature of your business. Some of those expenses may even be compensable.

Are business losses covered under eminent domain?

Lost profits and business losses are “non-compensable” under North Carolina eminent domain law. The NCDOT typically has no obligation to pay for the damage to your business or the profits you lose. There are some specific factors you should be aware of when dealing with business condemnation.

  • If the – non-compensable – loss of business of profit is a focal point of your negotiations for more money, you could be left with little to argue in your favor later in the negotiation.
  • The taking may take your business wholly – such as bisecting a farm, condemning the building in which your business is a tenant, or taking the land under which your fuel station has its gas storage tanks.
  • The taking may cripple your business but leave the property largely intact – such as taking a drive-thru lane for a fast food restaurant, removing the parking spaces from a gym, or taking the land under your gas station’s service garage.

An eminent domain attorney helps by: Negotiating with the NCDOT. It has no interest in your business. It just wants the land. The good news is, if you play your cards right, you may be able to increase your compensation by proving that the property is more valuable than the NCDOT says it is. Our experience with the NCDOT and appraisers means we can spot errors in appraisals. Plus, we know the right appraisers for your specific property type and location, and that your land may be more valuable than it seems.

For example, just because you were farming the land does not mean that is the land’s highest and best use. Your agricultural land may be more valuable as commercial property, and you could be losing the opportunity to develop it as such.

What if the government isn’t taking my land, but harms my business?

If the government affects your property or your right to use it without compensating you, you may have an inverse condemnation claim.

For example, if you own a car wash that is surrounded by NCDOT construction, you might be in trouble. The dust and debris from construction would render a car wash largely useless – as soon as cars emerged from the wash, they’d be dirty again. The NCDOT likely would not be obliged to pay you for that inconvenience.

However, if in the course of their construction, they blocked the entrance/exit to your business or parked their equipment on your property, you should be compensated.

An eminent domain attorney helps by: Understanding how government projects can cripple businesses. The side-effects of construction are often understated. If your business is being affected by the project, contact an eminent domain attorney immediately.

What if I don’t own the land under my business?

If you lease the land under your business and the government takes that land, you’re in a complex position. By the letter of the law, without an ownership interest, you could be barred from compensation. However, as a leaseholder, you still may have rights to the property that may be compensable. The terms of your lease in these cases are often the deciding factors.

For example, in 2017, the North Carolina Supreme Court sided with a commercial leaseholder in NCDOT v. Adams Outdoor Advertising. In that case, a billboard company was leasing the land on which its billboard stood when the land was taken by the NCDOT for a road project. The court ruled in favor of the billboard company for a number of reasons, including:

  • The nature of its lease
  • Statutory law specific to outdoor advertising leaseholds
  • The value of the billboard’s presence to the property, but not of the billboard itself

I know this case well because I was the lead attorney for the NCDOT. That’s what you’re up against as a business owner: a team of attorneys and professionals whose job it is to fight eminent domain claims all day every day. It underscores the importance of having representation of your own, solely focused on eminent domain and your rights. Fight fire with fire, so to speak. — Ken Sack, an attorney at the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm.

An eminent domain attorney helps by: Having intricate working knowledge of both statutory and case law, and the ability to construct and defend a case in court. In another example case, our firm was able to successfully represent a fast-food franchisee who leased the land for their business. It required us to develop a novel legal theory according to the circumstances of the case.1

The takeaway here is this: If you are a business owner, and you’re leasing land that’s taken under eminent domain, contact an experienced eminent domain attorney as soon as possible.

You can’t stop the government, but you can fight it

If the government is taking land from your business, don’t get intimidated. Get representation. Call us at 1-877-393-4990 or contact us online for a free case evaluation. Once we know the circumstances of your case, we’ll tell you what we think in a way that makes sense to you.

Our clients get a comprehensive value analysis

The key to try to get fair compensation from an eminent domain taking is to know the true value of the property and property rights being taken. To determine it, we do a comprehensive value analysis for all of our clients. It’s our way of using our experience to gain a perspective the NCDOT or condemning authority probably hasn’t considered (or doesn’t want to).

When all or a part of a business is being acquired, our comprehensive value analysis can require a multidisciplinary team including, if needed:

  • an environmental consultant 
  • a land planner 
  • a traffic consultant 
  • a commercial realtor 
  • an engineer 
  • an economist 
  • an appraiser 

We have a network of professionals who have designed regional malls, rezoned thousands of acres for all types of uses, and who are experienced in their various professions both in North Carolina and regionally.

If we can’t get you more, you pay nothing – not even sunk costs

You may be thinking that a comprehensive value analysis sounds like an expensive endeavor. It can be. If we agree to take your case, it means we are confident in our ability to try to increase the government’s initial offer of compensation (or that you should have been offered compensation). How confident? 

If we can’t increase their offer, you won’t pay us an attorney’s fee nor will you pay for any of the costs we incur to represent you.1 Furthermore, if we do obtain an increase, our fee comes only from the amount we’re able to get above the initial offer. Call the North Carolina Eminent Domain Law Firm at 1-877-393-4990 for a free consultation.

Get a free case evaluation

Get a free case
evaluation today.

There are only a handful of attorneys in NC who practice eminent domain exclusively, and even fewer with NCDOT experience. We have several. That’s why its worth getting in touch with us for a free case evaluation.

Here’s how it works:

1) Tell us about your situation.

2) We research your property as needed, using DOT maps, our own technology, and experience to see the exact effects.

3) We let you know what we think a fair offer would be. This evaluation is free, and there’s no
pressure or obligation to hire us after.

But please don’t wait to act. Waiting can hurt your case, and the cost is the same: free.

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