The eminent domain process in North Carolina will always be initiated by one of two entities-the government or private entities that perform a public function. (The most common private entity would be a power company or railroad) This is different from an inverse condemnation claim which would be initiated by a property owner against the government. However, inverse condemnation is not necessarily part of the eminent domain process. It is separate and is discussed in a different article.
The first step usually involves the government seeking to exercise eminent domain offering an amount to the property owner in hopes that a settlement can be reached. This comes after their appraisers created their report regarding the property and suggested an offer amount. The parties are free to negotiate and reach a settlement without dragging the court system into the process. Property owners need to realize that the first offer will most likely not be satisfactory and should get their own appraisal or opinion. However, an eminent domain attorney would help make that determination.
If the property owner and the government can reach an agreement, then the land will be sold to the government without the court getting involved. Many times, an attorney can help the property owner negotiate for a better price. One way to do this would be hiring your own independent appraiser. An independent appraiser will give a report that can be used as a bargaining tool. However, if the property owner cannot reach an agreement, the government will file a condemnation lawsuit against the property owner. Notice must be given 30 days before the lawsuit is filed. This should give the property owner enough time to consult with an attorney on their case.
The lawsuit will be filed with the Clerk of Superior Court in the jurisdiction where the property is located. Lawsuits in this area of law can take anywhere from 120 days to a year. Naturally, there are some ancillary cases that took less or more time. However, you should consult an attorney about your case in order to avoid any surprises with your case.