The process for exercising eminent domain will vary depending on who the condemning authority is. For example, in North Carolina, the process for a private entity condemning property is different from the standards and procedures that the North Carolina Department of Transportation must follow. In fact, the North Carolina Department of Transportation must follow a different body of statutes than the other authorities that seek to exercise eminent domain.
It is important to note that a condemning authority doesn’t suddenly decide to take a property. Projects that require the exercise of eminent domain are large and usually take years of planning. An evaluation of the property (or properties) is usually done long in advance of an owner knowing about the project. After the government decides that a particular set of properties need to be condemned, it must then have an appraisal completed for each property in order to make an offer to the owner.
A landowner should typically refuse the first offer that is made on their property. If the owner refuses to voluntarily take the offer, the government can then decide if it needs to file a lawsuit against the owner in a condemnation proceeding. Many times, the government might settle by offering a better price for the land. This may sound a bit frightening. However, it is just a legal formality.
The lawsuit will be filed in the district court where the property is located. Also, for the suit to be proper, the authority filing the condemnation lawsuit must deposit the amount of their original offer with the court. This money is yours and represents the bare minimum that you will receive. The process will usually take up to a year. However, landowners should consult with an eminent domain attorney because the process might be only 120 days depending on the type of taking being pursed.