The Land Condemnation Process

A landowner may first learn that their property is being taken for public use when a potential condemnor enters their land to conduct preliminary surveys or gather engineering data. State law permits such entries; however, the condemnor must pay the landowner for any damages caused by the entrance.

After this, an agent of the condemning authority will likely contact the property owner and attempt to negotiate a purchase price for the land being condemned. Condemnors such as the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and the North Carolina Department of Administration (NCDOA) are legally required to attempt “good faith” negotiations with property owners before filing a condemnation lawsuit—local condemnors are not.

The Condemnation Complaint—NCDOT and NCDOA

In most NCDOT and NCDOA condemnations, known as “quick-take” condemnations, the agency files and serves the landowner with a condemnation complaint if good faith negotiations fail. The complaint is a document stating:

  1. Why the property is being taken,
  2. How much is being taken, and
  3. How much it is believed to be worth.

Once the condemnor files a complaint with the Clerk of Superior Court and deposits its estimate of just compensation for the property taken, both the title and the right to immediate possession of the property belong to the state agency condemnor. 

As the landowner, you may apply to the court for all or part of the deposit for the land, even if you plan on challenging the valuation deposit of your property.

Petition to the Clerk of Superior Court—Local Private & Public Condemnors

Different procedures apply to local private and local public condemnors:

  • Local Private Condemnors

There is no “quick-take” procedure for local private condemnors. Instead, they must file petitions with the Clerk of Superior Court asking commissioners to place a value on the land. If the clerk decides that the land may be condemned, the clerk will appoint three commissioners to assign a value to the land and issue a report, which establishes just compensation. You have the right to appeal the clerk’s findings to the Superior Court. Local private condemnors are not required to deposit the sum for the land but are also not entitled to possession until such a deposit is made.

  • Local Public Condemnors

Although local public condemnors are allowed “quick-take” condemnations, these procedures differ from those available to NCDOT and NCDOA. They must provide a 30-day notice of condemnations to owners of affected properties. Local public condemnors must also deposit estimated compensation for the property with the clerk. The property owner is allowed to withdraw the deposit before they may take possession of the land.

Once a complaint has been filed by either a local or private condemnor, the landowner has the right to apply to the court for all or part of the land deposit made by the condemnor. In local private actions, the landowner is not required to “answer” or respond to the complaint. But in local public condemnation actions, the landowner must respond to the complaint within 120 days.

If You’re Facing Land Condemnation, Our Attorneys Are Here to Help

Eminent domain cases involving high-value properties are complex and require an experienced approach to ensure property owners’ rights are protected and that they receive just compensation for their land.

For more than 45 years, the attorneys at Henson Fuerst have been representing clients across the state of North Carolina. Find out how our North Carolina land condemnation attorneys can help with your case—call (919) 781-1107 or complete a free initial consultation form.