Families may soon have better safeguards against involuntary land loss
Heirs’ property occurs when land is passed down through generations and owned by many descendants with an undivided interest in the land. Owners of family-owned land where the title to the property is not clear are vulnerable to involuntary land loss resulting from a forced sale of the property. In North Carolina, anyone who inherits or purchases even a small interest of heirs’ property can potentially force other owners to sell against their will, often for well below fair market value.
Land provides a significant source of economic stability and growth for many families. This type of land ownership is common in North Carolina. As many as 86.5 million acres worth $1.86 billion in North Carolina is estimated to be under heirs’ property ownership today. Although no one is immune to the vulnerability of losing their land to a forced partition action, this issue disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, and People of Color throughout North Carolina.
A Legislative Solution: The Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act
Enacting the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA) in North Carolina will address how current state laws leave landowners of heirs’ property vulnerable to involuntary land loss. The UPHPA will help families by giving them a solid chance at keeping the land in the family when one or more owners wants to divide or sell the land through a partition action. This bill has been enacted in 17 states including Georgia and South Carolina. We hope North Carolina will be next.
Currently, the North Carolina General Assembly is considering adoption of the bill that would safeguard families from forced sales through partition action. The NC House recently passed the heirs property bill (H367) with strong bi-partisan support. We deeply appreciate those showing leadership on this important issue. The Senate will soon vote on the bill.
Families in an heirs’ property situation have difficulties accessing federal funding for sustainable forest and habitat management, agricultural work, and natural disaster recovery. In states where the Uniform Act is adopted, federal law allows landowners to gain access to beneficial funding and aid programs, including FEMA disaster recovery and the USDA Farm Bill.
CTNC has joined a coalition of non-profit and for-profit partners advocating for the adoption of the Uniform Act so North Carolina families can be protected from involuntary land loss.
Who is involved? Black Family Land Trust Inc., Roanoke Electric Cooperative, Audubon North Carolina, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, The Conservation Fund, The Land Loss Prevention Project, members of the North Carolina Bar Association, academic partners, and other experts.