Can the Government Take My Property Without Paying the Fair Price?

inspector with clipboard at house

Can The Government Take Your Land?

Governments are legally allowed to take your land for public use as long as they fairly compensate you for it. The legal concept is known as eminent domain and it is available to federal, state, and city governments. The land taken is most often used for roads, public utilities, or government buildings.

In the Raleigh area, the state is using this power to obtain land for the new Interstate 295 and the 540 Outer Loop. Unfortunately, it's common for many property owners to be offered compensation that is far less than what their property is worth. When this happens, it’s wise to have an attorney on your side. Being paid fairly for your property is literally a constitutional right. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution has a “takings clause,” stating private property can’t be taken for public use “without just compensation.” That means the government must pay full market value for your land.

When the government wants your land, officials will send an appraiser to assess your property's condition, location, accessibility, size, and current use to estimate its value. You should carefully read any documents the assessor gives you and save them. Other factors that are taken into consideration during an appraisal include:

  • Type of property
  • Timing of the sale
  • Condition of the property
  • The surrounding properties
  • Local building codes and restrictions

The only way to fully determine if you’re getting paid fairly is to hire an attorney. But what can you do when you discover that the government hasn’t paid you nearly enough?

How to Seek Additional Compensation

It’s not uncommon for the government's initial offer to be less than what your property is worth. An experienced attorney will know how to evaluate the offer and negotiate for more. If you've already been what the government claims are fair market value for your property, you can still insist that you be paid more — provided you haven’t signed away your right to do so. That’s why having an experienced attorney is so important.

What many people don’t know is that while the case is pending, you have the right to spend the money you’ve been paid — or do whatever else you want with it. Once you’ve been compensated, the money is yours and cannot be taken back by the government. This is especially helpful if you’ve lost your home and need financial support to relocate. Something else many landowners don't know is that they may be able to seek additional compensation. If the government restricted what you could do with your property when it filed official plans and maps for the project, you may be able to file an "inverse condemnation" claim.

Many people with land in the path of the planned Interstate 295 project may be eligible. Governments must pay interest on these claims back to when the official plans were filed. In the case of Interstate 295, that's all the way back to 1992. Government officials don't have to tell you if you're entitled to this, and they probably won't. An attorney can tell you if you might have such a claim and can explain how to avoid signing away your rights.

Can I Represent Myself?

Most people are allowed to represent themselves in court, but eminent domain cases are extremely complex, not to mention time-consuming. It's beneficial to your case to consult an attorney who has experience securing compensation for clients, along with familiarity with appraisers, land planners, and developers.

An attorney can explain aspects of eminent domain law many people don’t know and can help obtain an independent appraisal to determine whether the government's offer is fair. Having an attorney by your side when you're negotiating with the government's lawyers makes it much more likely to be a fair fight.

Contact Thorp Law online or by phone at (919) 373-3390 to hire an experienced attorney to oversee your case. We have a thorough understanding of eminent domain and can help you get paid more for your property.