Eminent Domain Attorney in Wendell and Raleigh, NC

If you’ve found yourself facing the daunting prospect of losing your property to eminent domain, you’re not alone. At Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas, our team of eminent domain attorneys understands the challenges and fears that come with this situation. 

Our Raleigh, NC lawyers are here to empower property owners with the knowledge of their rights and potential defenses against eminent domain in the Tarheel state. Our goal is to offer you guidance and support during this uncertain time, so you can navigate the complexities of eminent domain in North Carolina with confidence.


Understanding Eminent Domain and Land Condemnation

Eminent Domain

Few things are as distressing as the prospect of having your land taken away against your will. Unfortunately, this is a reality that many property owners face due to the government’s power of eminent domain. In North Carolina, the process through which the government can acquire private property for public use, known as land condemnation or eminent domain, is governed by specific laws and regulations.

General Statute Chapter 40A outlines the North Carolina’s eminent domain laws.

Eminent domain is the term for the state or federal government to take private property or land and claim it for public use, as long as the private property owner is given just compensation as laid out in the “Takings Clause” under the Fifth Amendment in the U.S. Constitution.  The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution gives state and local governments the same right to claim private property for public use, but it does put limits on government power.

NC land condemnation / eminent domain lawyersPublic Use Projects in Eminent Domain Cases

The government can only claim eminent domain when the land is necessary for public use. This includes:

  • Infrastructure construction, such as roads or bridges
  • Government buildings, like a post office or school
  • Expansion of a park or creating a federally protected wildlife area

Government agencies may also act on behalf of private companies, such as in the case of purchasing blighted property for redevelopment.

What is Land Condemnation?

Land condemnation refers to the legal process through which the government acquires private property for public use. This could include projects such as road expansions, utility installations, or public infrastructure development. 

What is Eminent Domain? 

Eminent domain is the inherent power of the government to take private property for public use, provided that just compensation is paid to the property owner.


The Process of Eminent Domain in North Carolina

Eminent Domain in NC infographicMuch of the cases our eminent domain attorneys work on are with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) for road and infrastructure construction. The process generally follows this structure:

Step 1

First, the government agency will announce the project and the affected private property. Often, they will reach out to the landowner to let them know their property is in the area of public use, but they may not. As soon as you are aware that your property may fall under eminent domain, it’s important to connect with a Raleigh land condemnation attorney immediately.

Step 2

Next, a government inspector will appraise the land and take their findings to the agency or department. They will review the report or information and create an offer to send to the property owners. As soon as you receive an offer, it’s important to show it to your attorney for review.

Our eminent domain attorneys always carefully evaluate every offer, making a point to not automatically reject the first offer. In fact, if the proposal is fair, we often recommend that clients accept it. An early settlement is usually in everyone’s best interests.

Step 3

If the initial offer is rejected, the next step is to work with an independent inspection and a professional financial appraisal. This appraisal usually looks at the whole financial picture. For example, if NCDOT wants to take part of your land to build a road, that taking might adversely affect the value of the remaining property.

During negotiations, if you choose to accept the offer, the case ends, you transfer the deed, and the matter is closed. However, if you choose to not accept the offer, the case moves forward.

If a Settlement Is Not Reached

At this point, the government agency has the right to take possession of the disputed land and place the financial compensation in an escrow account. If you choose not to  contest the notice, the case is over. If you do contest the notice, the matter usually goes before an ad hoc commission. This commission reviews all the evidence, including the initial report and subsequent independent evaluation. The commission may also hear testimony from you and additional witnesses.

If the current owner accepts the commission’s conclusion, the case ends. If a Raleigh land condemnation attorney files an appeal, the matter usually goes to trial.

Bear in mind that a settlement may occur at any time. As mentioned, settlement often happens rather early in the process. Other eminent domain matters settle almost literally on the courthouse steps right before trial begins.

One final note. Once the eminent domain process begins, it usually cannot be stopped. In most cases, the government will take the land sooner or later. The only issue is the amount of compensation. In some instances, courts have held that the attempted taking was completely unjustified. But in 2005’s Kelo v. City of New London, the United States Supreme Court broadly defined the right of eminent domain. So, such results are very rare.

Impact of Eminent Domain on NC Property Owners

For property owners in North Carolina, the prospect of land condemnation can have significant financial, emotional, and practical implications. Beyond the loss of property, owners may face uncertainties about their future, disruptions to their livelihoods, and challenges in finding suitable alternatives. 

Additionally, the compensation offered by the federal government may not always reflect the true value of the property or adequately compensate for the losses incurred. As such, it is crucial for property owners facing land condemnation to understand their rights against the taking authority and the options they have under the law.

Your Rights as a Property Owner in North Carolina 

As a property owner facing the prospect of land condemnation or eminent domain, it’s essential to understand that you have rights and protections under North Carolina law. While the government may have the eminent domain power to acquire your property for public use, it must follow specific procedures and provide fair compensation for the taking. 

Right to Due Process

Property owners are entitled to due process under the law, which ensures that they receive fair treatment and have the opportunity to challenge the condemnation. This includes the right to notice of the condemnation proceedings, the right to have their eminent domain case heard in court, and the right to present evidence and arguments in support of their case.

Right to Just Compensation

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 19 of the North Carolina Constitution guarantee that property owners are entitled to just compensation when their property is taken by eminent domain authority. Just compensation is generally defined as the fair market value of the property at the time of the taking, plus any damages caused by the condemnation.

Right to Challenge the Condemnation

Property owners have the right to challenge the condemnation of their property on various grounds. This may include questioning the necessity of the eminent domain projects, contesting the valuation of the property, or asserting regulatory or procedural violations by the condemning authority.

Right to Legal Representation

Property owners facing eminent domain proceedings have the right to legal representation. Having an experienced eminent domain attorney on your side can be invaluable in protecting your rights, advocating for fair compensation, and navigating the complexities of the property condemnation lawsuit.

Right to Negotiate

Property owners also have the right to negotiate with the NC land condemnation authority to reach a mutually acceptable resolution. This may involve exploring alternative solutions to land condemnation, such as land swaps, easements, or relocation options.

Right to Appeal

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the condemnation proceedings, you have the right to appeal the decision to a higher court. An appeal allows you to challenge any errors or injustices that may have occurred during the initial proceedings.

Why You Need an Eminent Domain & Land Condemnation Attorney in Raleigh

There may be no way to stop the eminent domain process once it starts, but property owners still have important rights. Having legal representation ensures you understand every step of the process, whether there is an easement on the land or other issues that may affect your property rights. 

An eminent domain lawyer will also look after your best interests and will prevent you from feeling intimidated or overwhelmed during the process. While the state appraiser is acting on the agency’s behalf, we’re working on yours to make sure you don’t feel pressured into taking a settlement or compensation that is less than what you are entitled to.

After you receive a notice of eminent domain, it’s important to connect with an attorney because there are actions you may inadvertently take that could damage your case. These include:

  • Filing amended property tax returns or other documents to indicate a lower property value.
  • Signing documents, such as a right of access, without your eminent domain attorney reviewing them.
  • Thinking you don’t have rights or that it’s not worth fighting your case.

Potential Defenses Against Land Condemnation

Facing the prospect of losing your property to North Carolina eminent domain can be overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that you have options. There are several potential defenses that your eminent domain attorney can utilize to challenge the condemnation action of your land.

Challenge the Necessity of the Project

One of the primary defenses against land condemnation is to challenge the necessity of the infrastructure projects for which your property is being acquired. This involves questioning whether a project truly serves a public benefit and whether there are feasible alternatives that would avoid the need for taking your property.

Contest the Valuation of Your Property

Another common defense is to contest the valuation of your property. The government’s initial offer for compensation you receive for your property should be based on its fair market value at the time of the taking. However, government appraisals may not always accurately reflect the true value of the property. You have the right to present evidence and arguments to support more compensation. This can include recent sales of comparable properties or expert testimony from appraisers.

Assert Regulatory or Procedural Violations

Property owners can also assert defenses based on regulatory or procedural violations by the condemning authority. This may include failure to follow proper procedures, violations of zoning or land use regulations, or other legal errors in the condemnation process.

Explore Governmental Immunity Limitations

In some cases, governmental immunity may limit the government’s ability to condemn certain types of property or interfere with certain property rights. For example, certain historical or cultural properties may be protected from condemnation under state or federal laws.

Seek Injunctive Relief

In certain circumstances, property owners may be able to seek injunctive relief to halt or delay the department of transportation or other government entity from seizing your property. This may be appropriate if there are legal or factual issues that need to be resolved before the condemnation can proceed, or if irreparable harm would occur if the property were condemned.

Alternative Solutions and Negotiation Strategies 

While facing the prospect of land condemnation can be daunting, it’s important to remember that there may be alternative solutions and negotiation strategies available to property owners.

Negotiate with the Condemning Authority

One of the most effective ways to protect your property is to engage in negotiations with the condemning authority. This involves working directly with the government or agency responsible for the condemnation to reach a mutually acceptable resolution.

Explore Alternative Solutions to Land Condemnation

In some cases, there may be alternative solutions to land condemnation that can satisfy the objectives of the public works projects while preserving your property rights. One such option is a land swap, where you exchange your property for an equivalent parcel of land in a different location. Also, granting easements or rights-of-way that allow the government access without taking ownership or direct condemnation of this particular property may be an option.

Consider Relocation Options

If your property is ultimately condemned, it’s important to consider your relocation options. The government is typically required to provide relocation assistance to displaced property owners, including reimbursement for moving expenses, assistance with finding comparable replacement housing, and compensation for any losses incurred as a result of the relocation.

Seek Legal Counsel and Advocacy

Throughout the negotiation process, it’s essential to have experienced Raleigh defense attorney by your side to advocate for your rights and interests.

Understanding Inverse Condemnation

Inverse condemnation occurs when the government takes private property without paying compensation to the property owner, so the owner has the legal right to sue the agency. It’s called “inverse” because the plaintiff and defendant are switched – in a traditional eminent domain case, the government is the plaintiff, but in an inverse condemnation case, the private property owner is the plaintiff.

Typically, a property owner can sue in the event of:

  • Physically seizing property without providing just compensation,
  • Reduction of value to the extent that the property is no longer commercially viable, or
  • An illegal quid pro quo (e.g. the state refuses to give the owner a building permit unless the owner gives the state an easement).

Your eminent domain attorney will look at the circumstance surrounding how the government built on your property, claimed it for other use, or negatively impacted the property economically and work for you to ensure you are properly compensated.

Reviews from Our Eminent Domain and Land Condemnation Clients

When the NC DOT decided to take my land in Onslow County, I knew I needed the help of a law firm with experience in eminent domain cases that was not afraid to take a case to jury verdict anywhere in the State of North Carolina. Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas was that firm. Their skill in putting together and presenting my case was impressive. I highly recommend them.

– Carl B. from Jacksonville, NC

I was notified by the Department of Transportation that my business and commercial property were being acquired by eminent domain for a highway project. I realized that I was not going to be able to get what I thought was fair compensation without help. I hired Kirk Kirk and immediately realized that they were extremely experienced in dealing with this area of law. The results exceeded my expectations. I would highly recommend them to anyone dealing with eminent domain issues.

– Dolan B. from Goldsboro, NC

I cannot say enough about the great job Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas did for my family when a municipality decided to cut off road access to our family’s land in Nash County. We knew they were experienced in fighting for the rights of landowners but were even more impressed with the passion they showed in defending our family. They really went the extra mile to make sure we were treated fairly. If the government decides it wants your land, these are the lawyers to call.

– Joan D. from Zebulon, NC

Other NC Land Condemnation Related Pages

Contact an Eminent Domain Attorney in the Raleigh Area

At Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas, our eminent domain attorneys are dedicated to helping property owners protect their rights and interests in eminent domain and land condemnation cases in North Carolina. With decades of experience and a proven track record of success, we have the knowledge, skills, and resources to provide effective legal representation and advocacy for our clients.

If you’re facing eminent domain proceedings, don’t hesitate to contact us for a consultation and case review to discuss your case and learn how we can help you navigate this challenging process.

Get started today by calling our Raleigh law firm at (919) 615-2473 or filling out the contact form below.


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