Condemnation and Eminent Domain

What happens when the government decides that it wants to take your real estate through the power of eminent domain? Often referred to as condemnation, the taking of real property by a governmental agency can lead to a complicated valuation analysis which relies heavily upon expert testimony. The legal process can be quite involved and lengthy. Often times eminent domain cases can be very emotionally taxing because you are having your property taken from you against your will. Arnold & Smith, PLLC is experienced in handling eminent domain cases. If you are currently involved or may become involved in any eminent domain case, don’t hesitate to contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today.

Who Can Take Property?

Technically, any government entity has the ability to take property. Accordingly, any agency of the federal, state, and local governments may exercise eminent domain. This means your property could be taken for a number of reasons, such as constructing a highway, building a school, expanding an airport, creating a light rail, and much more.

How Can The Government Take My Property?

The government has been seizing private property since the early years of the American colonies. Today, the practice is limited by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provides that private property can only be taken if for public use and if just compensation is paid to the original owner. Therefore, the inquiry in eminent domain procedures is always two-part: (1) is the taking for public use? And (2) is just compensation being paid to the original owner?

  • Is the taking for public use? Unfortunately, courts often interpret the public use inquiry very broadly. The Supreme Court, in the landmark takings case Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005), allowed the town of New London, Connecticut to take the property of numerous residents and transfer it to a private developer. Despite a public outcry over the majority of the $80 million in public funds going into the hands of the Pfizer Corporation, the land was cleared. Eventually, the plans to create an expansive industrial park fell through and the land remains vacant to this date. The debacle continues to call into question the practice of governmental takings. Nevertheless, the law continues to give the government broad discretion in what qualifies as public use. Don’t let your land be taken for a futile purpose—let the attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC investigate and scrutinize the government’s justification to ensure it is truly Constitutional.

  • Has just compensation been paid? The government is required to pay “just compensation” for any property it takes. This is a commonly litigated issue. Generally, courts measure just compensation by the property’s fair market value. Courts should not necessarily consider the present use of the property, but rather the most profitable use of the land. In other words, if your land has enormous potential, but you currently haven’t exploited that potential, you should still receive compensation for the untapped potential. Unfortunately, however, courts generally do not award compensation to owners whose businesses are damaged by having to relocate.

Interest Payments, Tax Implications, And Properties Affected
  • Am I entitled to Interest? Property owners are also entitled to interest should the government delay payment of just compensation. Like any purchase, government takings entitle you to timely payments. Should those payments be delayed for any reason, the attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC will work ensure you receive reasonable interest on the delayed payment.

  • What property interests are compensable? All property interests are eligible for just compensation. For example, if you own an easement across a piece of property that is taken by the government, you are entitled to just compensation for your easement.

  • Are there any Tax Implications? Tax implications also arise from governmental takings. Notably, if your property is taken, you may be able to reinvest the proceeds into a similar investment without paying capital gains taxes. As such, you may be entitled to even more than the compensation payout.

Contact An Attorney

Condemnation proceedings create incredible hardships on those affected. Whether NCDOT is planning to construct a superhighway through your family farm or a city is planning to erect a skyscraper on top of your home, the experienced attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are here to help. We will fight to prevent your hard-earned property from being taken from you. If the land must go, we will work to ensure that you receive the full compensation to which you are entitled for every square inch of your property. If your property is in the crosshairs of an eminent domain pursuit, don’t hesitate to contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today to begin developing a powerful defense.