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Eminent Domain vs. Inverse Condemnation: Key Differences Explained

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If you are a property owner, it is not unlikely that one day the government could knock on your door and announce they wish to take some or all of your land for a project for the benefit of the community, such as widening a road or building an overpass. However, the government cannot simply get a piece of your land without following specific eminent domain rules. The landowner may have an inverse condemnation claim when these rules are not followed. Learn the differences between eminent domain and inverse condemnation and see when to get legal help.

What Constitutes a Taking of Property by the Government?

A taking of property is a term used to describe an instance where the government occupies private land for public use. A taking can be classified in three ways: physical takings, regulatory takings, and pro tanto takings.

A physical taking occurs when the government has a public-use case for an entire property or a portion of it and offers the property owner compensation for the portion of the property being taken. A regulatory taking does not cause the property owner to lose any portion of the land physically but severely limits the owner’s ability to use their land by regulating the permitted uses of the property. Finally, a pro tanto taking can occur when a public project causes such interference to a nearby property that it affects the property’s accessibility or economic success.

How Can the Government Take Property Through Eminent Domain?

Eminent domain is the power a government entity has to make use of private land for public projects after providing the landowner with fair compensation. A typical example is when the local Department of Transportation needs to widen a road to improve traffic flow through town, but the only way to do that is to use strips of private property on either side of the road.

Suppose you owned a home in that area, and the government needs to remove 20 ft. from your front yard for the road construction project. In that case, the government would have to offer you fair compensation for the portion of your front yard they wish to take. That would constitute a physical taking, which is a common step in eminent domain situations.

What Is Inverse Condemnation and When Does It Apply?

As explained above, whenever a government entity needs to gain possession of a property through eminent domain rules, it must declare a taking. That gives the property owner a chance to seek fair compensation for the portion of their land (or for the entire property) being taken.

When a taking is not officially declared, and the government agency still engages in actions or imposes rules that affect the property owner (such as in the case of a regulatory taking or a pro tanto taking, for example), the landowner may file an inverse condemnation claim. This is when the landowner may go to court to demonstrate that a taking of their property has occurred and that they are thus entitled to receive just compensation for the damages to the property.

Is There a Legal Deadline for a Landowner to Take Action Against the Government?

If you believe your property has been subject to a taking and have the grounds to initiate an inverse condemnation claim, it is important to be aware of the applicable statute of limitations for these types of claims. A statute of limitations is a legal deadline that limits how much time someone can wait before initiating a lawsuit seeking damages compensation.

For example, North Carolina property owners who wish to file an inverse condemnation claim should be prepared to do so within 24 months of the date of the taking. Alternatively, the claim may be filed once the public project affecting the property is completed – whichever comes later. Allowing the statute of limitations to expire may negatively impact your ability to have a successful inverse condemnation claim.

It is crucial to speak to a skilled eminent domain and inverse condemnation attorney to discuss your case. The legal team at Hansen, Howell & Wilkie, PLLC, is ready to help you protect your rights to just compensation. Call us at 984 205 8453.

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