Typically, the government or a public utility will attempt to use eminent domain in order to complete a project. The authority that seeks to use eminent domain activates its right to eminent domain through a few different avenues. One avenue is by trying to negotiate the purchase of property from the landowner without having to go through the courts. Another is through the process called “condemnation” which requires the use of the courts in order to obtain property.
The initial process will almost always include the government or private condemnor making an offer to the landowner which can either be accepted or modified based on how the negotiations proceed. Before taking the offer, the landowner should seek to get their own appraisal. By getting their own appraisal, the landowner can ensure that the authority seeking to take their property is offering a fair price.
However, the government’s initial offer will normally be below what fair market values might be. Therefore, the landowner will likely need to decline the first offer. The government will then either increase the offer and settle or file a condemnation lawsuit in the district court where the property is located. The process of condemnation does not begin until a lawsuit is filed in the court.
In North Carolina and many other states, the court will hold an initial hearing where the landowner, hopefully through their attorney, will present evidence of true fair market value. In North Carolina, this initial hearing is conducted by Commissioners who are appointed by the Clerk of Court. The Commissioners will hear the case and create a report granting an award to the landowner based on their findings. However, if the landowner or condemning authority does not want to accept the Commissioners’ ruling, then they can request a jury trial.
There is another form of taking that allows the government to take immediate possession of the property being condemned. This process is called a “quick take.” Quick takes exist in many other states beside North Carolina. However, in North Carolina, quick takes can only be for specified purposes.