Eminent Domain: Condemnor’s Deposit and Your Answer

by de Ondarza Simmons, PLLC on April 17, 2011

nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation

5th Amendment requires "Just Compensation"

What the condemnor has to do to take your property

Public condemnors are governmental entities with the power of eminent domain, the power to take private property for public purposes.  In North Carolina, public condemnors include the NCDOT, cities, counties, and local school boards.  To take your property, there are several things a public condemnor has to do.  One of those things is to deposit with the Clerk of Court the condemnor’s estimate of just compensation for the taking.

What do you have to do?

You will need to file an answer.  If you don’t, the amount deposited will be deemed to be just compensation, and you will not be entitled to ask for anything more.  Depending on the specific condemnor that sued you, you may have up to 12 months or as little as 120 days from the date you were served with the lawsuit papers to file your answer.  For tactical reasons, it may make sense to use almost all of that time before filing your answer.  (To set up appointment to discuss why, Contact Us Now.)

What else should you do?

Regardless of your answer deadline, you may ask the court to disburse the deposit immediately.  North Carolina eminent domain attorneys call this, “drawing down the deposit”.  If you don’t draw down the deposit, the money stays with the Clerk of Court until a judgment is entered in your case.  But leaving the deposit with the Clerk means you can’t use it, and while it may draw some small amount of interest, under North Carolina law, the Clerk of Court can charge you a fee for managing the money.  That fee will eat into whatever interest you might otherwise earn.

Key techniques and traps

There are some tricks to drawing down the deposit, and what to do with it once you have it.  The deposit can be very helpful in proving that you have damages far in excess of what the condemnor says is just compensation.  But drawing down the deposit also comes with some strings attached.

What we do to help our eminent domain clients

At de Ondarza Simmons, we always counsel eminent domain clients on the specific risks and benefits of

  • the best time to file your answer
  • how to drawn down the deposit the right way
  • what strings are attached to drawing down the deposit and
  • how to use the deposit to help win your case.

Contact Us Now

To set up an appointment for a free consultation on how we can help you win your eminent domain case, go to our Contact Us page to call or email us now.

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