Eminent domain is a frightening topic for most people because it takes away the right of the property owner to convey the property when he or she chooses. Although we will look at what it is and how it pertains to you in a moment, we need to provide you with a basic understanding of what it is. Eminent domain speaks to the government’s ability to take your land for public use—even if you do not wish to sell it. In return, the landowner receives just compensation, as guaranteed by the North Carolina and the United States Constitutions.
One of the reasons eminent domain is so overwhelming is that a private homeowner may feel powerless when informed that the government intends to take his or her land. Take comfort in knowing that there are attorneys who not only have a command of the laws surrounding eminent domain but represent property owners like you. Attorney E. Scott Copeland at Benbow, Davidson & Martin, P.C. is one of those people. As you read through our blog about eminent domain and develop additional questions, don't hesitate to get in touch with us so we can help you during this emotional and stressful time in your life.
Public Use & Benefit
The ideas surrounding public use and just compensation are rooted in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in the Takings Clause. The Founders recognized the power of the State to take private property for public use, but put specific limits on that power in the Fifth Amendment. (Those restrictions apply to states as the Fourteenth Amendment addresses a state's ability to exercise this power.) In addition to the land being used for public use and receiving just compensation, you cannot lose your property without due process.
Even a cursory search of “eminent domain” will produce many results where people have challenged the government’s right to seize their property. More importantly, you should know that even though the government wants to acquire your property for public use (or benefit), it may not be suitable. While stopping a taking may occasionally occur, it is not the norm wherein a taking by the State or a private utility will be stopped. Instead, what is important is that you receive the just compensation or fair market value for any property that may be taken from you.
You are Entitled to Just Compensation
There is a process for determining the value of your property. Some assume the government will express their desire to acquire your land and pay you what is fair compensation. In reality, the government will hire an appraiser to assess the fair market value of your land and present to you an offer. What if the appraisal comes back far below what you expected? You can and should have an appraisal done. If the assessments don’t align, you can still negotiate (which can be done through your attorney). Failed negotiations could lead to litigation, but regardless of the outcome, you will have to come to an agreement or a court’s determination of the property’s fair market value if the acquisition is lawful.
Contact an Eminent Domain Attorney at Benbow, Davidson & Martin, P.C.
You are not in this alone. We understand how daunting it is to learn that the government intends to acquire your land, but you have rights. Attorney E. Scott Copeland of Benbow, Davidson & Martin, P.C. represents property owners in this situation. He is so passionate about this area of the law that he only works with private citizens as opposed to government agencies. Contact us today to schedule a consultation if you wish to speak with us about an eminent domain issue.