Why You Should Consult With An Attorney If The NCDOT Is Taking Your Land
Here’s a fact that few people know about: the government can legally take your private property (or portions of it) for public use under the power of eminent domain. This applies irrespective of whether your property is undeveloped or has buildings on it.
Think of the following scenario; there have been plans of constructing a new highway through the town. It’s meant to attract more investors, make the commute easier, and ultimately help the town grow. This sounds like a great initiative until you receive notice from the NCDOT (North Carolina Department of Transportation) that the government will be buying your property in order to make a portion of that highway.
The offer you’ve been given doesn’t seem fair, and you’re wondering if you should agree to sell. It’s the government, after all, and you probably feel as though you don’t have other options. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Here’s everything you need to know about the NCDOT claiming eminent domain over your property and why you need an attorney.
What Is Eminent Domain?
Eminent domain is a law that gives the government power to take your land for public use. Stopping the NCDOT from taking your land is rarely, if ever, successful, but under the US constitution, you’re entitled to fair compensation. Unfortunately, they may not always act in your best interests which is why you need an eminent domain lawyer to help you understand your rights in such situations and protect your interests.
There are 3 main elements of an eminent domain case:
NCDOT will likely claim your land through a process referred to as condemnation. Normally, this term carries negative implications, but when it comes to eminent domain cases, it’s used even when your property is in good condition. Most of the time, the government doesn’t condemn all your property, just a piece of it. The challenging part is identifying the value of the piece that they’ll be taking.
The government can only take private property if it plans on using it for public use or projects that will benefit the community. This includes public parks, schools, highways, etc. In 2005, however, the court expanded the term ‘public use’ when it allowed a municipality to condemn property for a private developer. In Kelo vs. New London, Conn., the court allowed the property to be sold so that the developer could build a hotel, offices, and a health club to increase the municipal tax revenue and create jobs.
The law requires the government to compensate you fairly by offering you a reasonable market value for the property, taking into consideration the severance damages. When you’re given an offer for your property, don’t just accept it. NCDOT, in this case, is like any other buyer and will probably offer you the lowest possible price. Consult a seasoned eminent domain attorney to ensure you get the maximum value for your property.
What Are My Legal Rights During an Eminent Domain Proceeding?
If you’re faced with the possibility of the government taking your property under the power of an eminent domain, you’re likely frightened. The good news is that even though this is a nerve-wracking position to be in, you’re not powerless. While you may not be able to fight the decision, you can ensure you get the maximum value for your property.
Just compensation means getting the property’s fair market value, which should be based not only on its current use but also on the highest and best use, including severance packages.
Here are some examples of severance damages;
- Taking land that causes the remaining properties to be divided into parcels that can’t be used efficiently.
- Taking land that’s in front of a business, ultimately limiting its ability to display its products and attract customers.
- Condemning property that impacts the ability to access the remaining parcels.
- Taking property that served a complementary purpose to the remaining one, e.g., taking land that held the storage facilities for a primary business.
- Condemning property that served as a parking area to the remaining business parcels.
Without an experienced eminent domain attorney, you may not be able to negotiate a fair settlement. NCDOT may also lowball the severance damages or not even pay for them at all.
Why Should I Hire an Eminent Domain Attorney?
If you’ve received notice that the government will be taking your property, there are a couple of ways that an eminent domain attorney can help you.
To Receive Just Compensation
Most of the time, when the government takes your property under eminent law, they’ll offer you a lower amount than you actually deserve. An eminent domain attorney will help you get just compensation, including the fair market value of the property and the relocation expenses. They’ll also get you compensation for the damages you’ll incur if the piece being taken impacts the remaining parcels negatively and the amount you spend putting up fixtures and making improvements to the parcel.
To Understand Your Rights
Before NCDOT can take your property, they have to prove that they’ll use the land for public use and that the land they are planning on taking is necessary. This means that if they’re planning on installing a new water line, they should only take the portion that’s needed and not your entire property.
An experienced eminent domain lawyer will help you protect your interest by highlighting whether the reason your land is being taken really serves a public need. They also give you an objective interpretation of the relevant statutes and help you build a robust case.
To Navigate the Complex Legal Processes
The legal processes involving eminent domain cases are very complex, and you’ll need a lawyer to break them down for you. An eminent domain attorney will guide you through the entire process, from advising you or your rights to aggressively fighting for your interests. They’ll also advise you on the steps to take to ensure that you get the best possible outcome.
Protect Your Rights Today With Green Mistretta Law
If your property is about to be taken under eminent domain law, don’t panic. With our team by your side, you’ll be able to get the maximum compensation for your property, and in some cases, prevent your land from being taken. It’s tempting to navigate the legal processes on your own but keep in mind that the government likely has multiple people fighting for them. Level the playing field by hiring Green Mistretta Law.
This article does not establish an attorney-client relationship and must not be construed as legal advice.