The threat of eminent domain — the government taking your property for public use — and the condemnation process is difficult for most people to understand unless they have been through it. Many people have a hard time understanding that the government can simply take their property while paying only a fraction of the property’s real value.
The Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution allows the government the right to take private property for public use. When possible, we can help you explore other avenues to avoid an impact to your property but unfortunately in the majority of cases there is little you can do. However, the Fifth Amendment also mandates “just compensation” to the property owner. Because “just compensation” is not exclusively defined, valuation of just compensation can vary and therefore, be negotiated.
Understanding the Condemnation Process
The condemnation process is complex and has many steps. Failure to take action at the right time and with the right parties can leave you with little or no recourse against the government for taking your property.
The Beginning Of The Condemnation Process:
- The government or agency identifies a public project which may require the acquisition of private property.
- The government or agency (aka the “condemnor”) notifies the property owners that may be affected.
- The condemnor makes an initial offer to purchase the property based off what they believe is “fair value” for your property.
- The condemnor files a complaint of condemnation in superior court in the county where the property is located.
- At this point, the property owner needs to file an answer with the court. If the property owner fails to file an answer, he or she will only ever receive the amount that had been deposited with the court as compensation for the property. Meaning, you would lose the right to any additional compensation guaranteed to you by your Fifth Amendment right.
- The amount of time you have to file an answer depends on which chapter of the law applies in your case. If the condemnation is taking place under Section 136, you will have one year to file an answer. If the condemnation is taking place under Chapter 40A, you will only have 120 days to file an answer. We can help you understand which chapter applies in your case, and will work diligently to ensure that we meet deadlines to preserve your right to full and fair compensation for your property.
We offer clients experienced and skillful assistance with eminent domain issues and the condemnation process, including matters involving:
- Disputed appraisals — Too often the government bases the value of the property it is taking on non comprehensive appraisal reports that leaves property owners insufficiently compensated.
- Abuse of eminent domain powers — Would you know if the government was abusing it’s power of eminent domain?
- Valuation of commercial and residential property — For business owners who are facing property loss through condemnation, it is essential that the appraisal include all aspects that make a property valuable to a business owner.
- The condemnation process — Our extensive experience allows us to create the most effective strategy for securing full compensation for you.
- Partial vs. total taking — Not all government takings of property are “total takings.” The government may take only a portion of the property, but it can impact the remaining property.
- Inverse condemnation — When the government already has an easement on your property but has gone outside of its prescribed area or has used the easement for longer than it should have.
- Properties subject to deed of trust/mortgage — If your property is subject to a deed of trust or mortgage, when the government takes part of it, it is also taking part of your lender’s collateral for the loan you received. We will fight on your behalf to keep as much of the compensation as possible in your pocket as opposed your lender’s.
- Property managers and homeowner’s associations (HOAs) — When part of a community’s common area property is taken due to eminent domain and condemnation, we can help you take the right steps to maximize your compensation for all parties involved.
- Companies with the power to condemn property — It is not just the government that has the power to take private property for public use. Some companies such as Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas also have this power. We are well-versed in dealing with these types of condemnation cases and will fight to ensure you are adequately compensated for the use of your property.
- Temporary construction easements — Although the area within a temporary construction easement reverts back to the property owner when construction is completed, they can last for several years, disrupting business or lowering the value of your property.