What Does Eminent Domain Mean?
So what does "eminent domain" mean anyway?
Eminent domain is the name for the government's power to take private properties for public use.
So if the government wants to create a new road in Greensboro, but homes and businesses are in the way, they can take those properties using the "power of eminent domain."
Eminent domain is frequently used for new roads, widening existing roads, sewer or drainage easements and even new schools - just to name a few.
1) The property must be taken for public use
So the government can not take your property and give it to the latest supermarket that wants to move into town, but they can take your land for something that will be benefit the general public, such as a new road or police station.
2) The taking must be "necessary"
Basically this means that the government can't complete the project without taking your land and can't take any more property than is needed.
If there's a new power line coming through and it's going to take up 100 feet of your property, then 100 feet is all the government agency is allowed to take.
3) The property owner must be given "just compensation"
Fortunately the government can't just kick you out of your home and onto the street without paying you for your land (and we don't think they would want to). They have to give you just compensation for your property according to "fair market value."
Who says what's "fair"?
"Just compensation" is where the eminent domain process can get a little confusing. You probably don't have to think back very far to think of the last time you and someone else had a different opinion of what's "fair."
Similarly, real estate valuation is not an exact science. One appraiser's opinion on the value of your land can vary widely compared to another appraiser's opinion. In addition, oftentimes the changes the new project will bring can also affect the value of your property.
For instance, let's say you were to sell a portion of your yard to your neighbor who wants more room to knock a few golf balls around.
The price you give your golfing enthusiast neighbor would probably be widely different than the price that would be fair if he were going to use that land to build a roaring highway that may eventually devalue your whole property.
To make sure you're taking all issues into account when selling your property to a government agency, you may want to talk to an experienced eminent domain lawyer.
Watch our attorney Stan Abram's video on this topic at: www.nc-eminent-domain.com/eminent-domain-basics/.