NC Eminent Domain Attorneys at Hendrick Bryant Nerhood Sanders & Otis
“Can the government just take my property?” Many North Carolina property owners ask this question when the government threatens to use the power of eminent domain to take their property. The government has the power to take your property without your consent, but the taking must be for a public use and the government must provide just compensation.
What is eminent domain? Eminent domain is a power given to the government to take property without the owner’s consent for a public use. This power is given to federal, state, and local governments. To exercise the power of eminent domain, the government must pay the owner just compensation for the property taken.
Who Can Take Property? Federal, state, and local governments may all exercise the power of eminent domain. These governments may act through various agencies and entities, including the North Carolina Department of Transportation (the “NCDOT”). When the government declares that it will take a piece of property, this is called “Direct Condemnation.”
Some private companies, such as public utility companies like Duke Power and Piedmont Natural Gas, may also possess certain eminent domain powers. These companies are known as quasi-public entities due to the nature of the service they provide and regulations that apply to them.
What is Public Use? When the government exercises the power of eminent domain, it must have a public use for the property. Many uses may be considered “public,” from parks and schools, to roads, to utility lines.
What is Just Compensation? The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires that the government pay just compensation when it takes a person’s property. Courts may look at a wide variety of considerations when determining just compensation, including:
- The fair market value of the land taken;
- Improvements made to the real property;
- The cost to relocate; and
- Interest, costs, attorneys’ fees, and appraisal fees (in inverse condemnation cases).
What is Inverse Condemnation? Inverse condemnation occurs when a governmental entity has taken a person’s property, but has not paid the owner just compensation. Property owners can sue to force the government to pay for the land that it has taken. Inverse condemnation requires the property owner to take action to ensure the government pays for the property, unlike direct condemnation, in which the government declares that it is taking property.
In the 2016 case of Kirby v. NCDOT, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled in favor of the property owners claiming that their property had been taken without just compensation. The NCDOT had recorded maps on the owners’ properties which severely restricted property owners’ rights to improve, develop, and subdivide their property. Because of this, the Supreme Court ruled that the NCDOT had taken the owners’ fundamental property rights. The Supreme Court ordered that the trial court determine the value of the property taken by the NCDOT.
The law firm of Hendrick Bryant Nerhood Sanders & Otis represented the Kirby property owners against the NCDOT at the Supreme Court, and has extensive experience in the area of eminent domain. We represent hundreds of North Carolina property owners whose property has been taken by the government, and we are fighting to get them just compensation.
If your property is being taken or threatened with condemnation, call the eminent domain attorneys at Hendrick Bryant Nerhood Sanders & Otis at (336) 723-7200 to discuss your eminent domain matter today. For more on our firm, go to: HBNSO Law Firm Website