The power of the government to take your land is rooted in very old law called Eminent Domain. In America, that law traces back to the United States Constitution, under the 5th Amendment, which states that “no private property shall be taken for public use, without just compensation.” In addition, the State has further powers under North Carolina General Statute Chapter 136, and local condemnors have powers under North Carolina General Statute Chapter 40.
In most cases, it is very difficult to defeat a government’s authority to take land. It happens occasionally, but in our experience, that’ a very difficult fight to win.
What Is Land Condemnation?
In the vast majority of cases, private land can be taken by the government (and sometimes private companies) through a process called Land Condemnation, which means that they sue you to take your land. When they do this, they must provide proof that your land is of benefit to the public, such as for building a new roadway, and they must pay you the “fair value” for that land, at its highest and best use.
In cases brought by state government, this is done through a process called “Quick Take.” In North Carolina, that basically means that once they jump through three legal hoops, they own the land. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate over the value of the land, but it DOES mean that, more often than not, they are going to get your land whether you like it or not.
What Is Inverse Condemnation?
In other case, land may be taken by what is called Inverse Condemnation. This occurs when the government or a private entity effectively takes your land, does something to reduce the value of your land, or deprives you of the fair use of your land…without paying you anything. Some examples of this might include:
- A highway is built near your property, and an important water source is altered such that your land is now flooded.
- During the construction of a highway, the contractors use explosives, and the blast from the dynamite causes damage to your buildings or home.
- The state has long-term plans to build a roadway project, say, 20 years from now. But, in the meantime, will not allow you to build or make improvements to your land. We frequently see cases like this when the state is considering building a belt line around a major city, but the project may drag on for decades. All the while, property owners can neither sell nor improve their property.
In all of these ways, you—the landowner—are being deprived of your state and federal constitutional rights to receive just compensation for your property.
Henson Fuerst is Here to Help
If one of these situations is affecting you, then talking with an attorney about your legal rights is probably the single best thing you can do to protect yourself and your investment. Call the experienced North Carolina Land Condemnation Attorneys at Henson Fuerst at 919-781-1107 today for a FREE consultation.