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 must compensate you.
Steps You Can Take to Give Yourself the Best Shot at Fair Compensation
There are also several steps you can take to try to put yourself in the best position possible to receive just compensation. Here are some of the most important things you can do:
- Maintain your property – even if the government has told you that they plan to utilize your property, knock down a building, or take control of it completely, you should keep your property in good shape until they do. The government may notify you of their plans and timeline but often fails to notify you of delays. It could be months or years until they take action. Don’t make their job easier or put yourself at risk of being paid less for your property by failing to maintain it. The bottom line is: the better shape your property is in, the higher value it receives.
- Consider future impacts on the use or development of your property – although this is part of the government’s job in considering your property value, it is helpful for you to also be aware of, especially because many potential issues are often overlooked. If the project includes limiting new access drives to the road, makes a portion of the property unreachable, or limits ability to expand parking in a convenient area, the fair value you receive for your property when eventually selling it could be much less than you expect.
- Ask for a written copy of the government’s appraisal – it is crucial to not only know the value the government is putting on your property, but also how they came to that amount. This is done by an appraiser, and the report that ultimately values your property is called the appraisal. You have every right to that appraisal, but often the government won’t share the appraisal unless you request it. When they make an offer, they typically boil the appraisal down to one page – most appraisal reports are 40-100+ pages long. It is important to push for as much information possible, as these reports can help reveal if any mistakes have been made and, more
importantly, how those mistakes may have impacted the compensation you are offered.
- Get information – as with anything, the more information you have available to you, the better prepared you will be to face the situation. When it comes to eminent domain, you should request plans and a timeline for the project. While these are subject to change, any information you can get early on will help you better handle the taking of your property. You likely shouldn’t invest in a remodel of your home or expansion of your business without having a good idea of what the project entails, and what rights you have to offset your losses.
- Get the name and contact information of any appraisers that come out to your property – the government may hire multiple appraisers to value your property. It is important that you independently keep track of their names and information, as you may notice you do not receive all of their reports in the end. This is because some appraisers may value your property at a higher amount – an amount higher than what the government wants to pay you. If they have a lower appraisal that they can submit to you, we expect they will. The best thing you can do is keep track of all of the appraisers to allow further investigation if an expected report doesn’t show up.
You Don’t Have to Do It Alone – We Can Help
Do these tasks seem daunting? Advice from an eminent domain attorney can help. Our attorneys will evaluate your case for free, and you will not be charged anything unless we are hired and you receive compensation above the original offer.
From getting an accurate appraisal on your property to reading through contracts drawn up by the government, these cases can be complicated. An attorney with experience in eminent domain proceedings can help you navigate the situation and try to achieve the best possible outcome. Three of ours once worked on behalf of NCDOT; we know their procedures, decision makers, and how to build a strong case for higher compensation to property owners.
Contact an Eminent Domain Attorney
Please contact one of our experienced eminent domain attorneys to help you through the process.
We will help you fight for the compensation you deserve, and you will not have to pay anything upfront. Once the case is settled, we only get a percentage of the increase we are able to obtain for you over what the government already offered you.
Since we’ve been in business, we’ve increased the average offer for our clients by 193%.*
*Each case is different and must be evaluated separately. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Average based on each case’s increase as of 12/31/19.