If you are a Texas property owner whose land is facing condemnation for an eminent domain project, you’ll want to make sure that your rights are protected and you receive fair compensation for your land. That means seeking the help of an experienced Texas eminent domain attorney.
At the law firm of Dawson & Sodd, LLP, we’ve been representing Texas landowners in eminent domain, property condemnation and other property dispute litigation for over a hundred years. Our Texas property rights lawyers know the condemnation process inside and out. We are dedicated to ensuring our clients get fair compensation for their property, as guaranteed by the U.S. and Texas Constitutions.
A Bona Fide Offer Must Be Made
In Texas, condemnation is the legal process that eligible entities utilize to obtain private property for public use. For the property owner, the process usually starts when an entity with condemnation authority requests access to the property for purposes of a survey or other investigation. The condemnation authority will also present the landowner with a written offer to purchase their land.
In order to acquire the land, the entity with eminent domain authority must make a bona fide offer to acquire the property from the property owner voluntarily. Under the law, the entity with eminent domain authority must first submit an initial offer to the property owner. Before making a final offer, the entity must obtain a written appraisal from a certified appraiser of the value of the property being acquired and the damages, if any, to any of the property owner’s remaining property. The final offer from the condemning authority has to be made on or after the 30th day after the date on which the entity makes a written initial offer to the property owner and must be equal to or greater than the amount of the written appraisal.
Do you have to accept the final offer from a condemning authority?
Landowners do not have to accept the final offer from a condemning authority. If you decide to accept the offer made by the condemning authority, the process is over. If you choose not to, what happens next? In most cases, the condemning entity will begin condemnation proceedings by filing a condemnation lawsuit to obtain the land. After the lawsuit has been filed, the presiding judge will convene what is called a Special Commissioners’ Hearing.
The Special Commissioners’ Hearing
At the Special Commissioners’ Hearing, three Special Commissioners appointed by the judge will hear evidence presented by both the condemning authority and the landowner. Once they are finished hearing the evidence, the Special Commissioners will enter the Award of the Special Commissioners — the amount of money they have determined is fair and just compensation for the landowner’s property.
You Don’t Have to Accept the Decision of the Special Commissioners’ Hearing
If either side doesn’t agree with the decision of the Special Commissioners’ Hearing, either you or the condemning authority can object to the findings by filing a written statement of the objections and their grounds with the court that has jurisdiction of the proceeding. Your statement must be filed on or before the first Monday following the 20th day after the day the commissioners file their findings with the court. The resulting case will be tried in the same manner as other civil cases.
Frequently Asked Questions About Eminent Domain
In general, government entities — federal, state, county, municipal, water districts, and school districts — have the right to seize private property through eminent domain. In some cases, public utilities may also be able to use private property to run power lines, pipelines and other alleged ‘public uses.’
Read more about who can take private property through Eminent Domain in Texas.
When an entity with eminent domain authority targets your property for condemnation, one of the first steps is requesting the right to enter the property to conduct a land survey. While Texas eminent domain laws do not require landowners to grant access in these cases, denying entry usually won’t stop the survey from eventually happening, or the condemnation process from proceeding.
Read more about right of entry requests in Texas eminent domain actions.
Can you? Yes. Is it a good idea? No. The sooner you get advice from an experienced eminent domain attorney, the better off you will be. Condemnation rules are very complicated, and even most attorney landowners are not comfortable dealing with those rules without help from experienced counsel. If you are trying to negotiate your own deal, anything you say can impact your ultimate recovery.
Read more about the importance of having an experienced eminent domain attorney.
Highlighted Eminent Domain Case Result After Rejecting Final Offer from a Condemning Authority
It’s not uncommon for landowners to be dissatisfied with the final offer from a condemning authority. In one memorable case, Dawson & Sodd helped a local family-owned Partnership, Land Rover, Ltd., when Texas Midstream sued to condemn two permanent pipeline easements and two temporary construction easements for a high pressure gas pipeline from two non-contiguous commercial properties in west Fort Worth.
During the trial in April 2015, Texas Midstream claimed it owed Land Rover only about $260,000. The trial concluded with a jury verdict awarding Land Rover $1.28 million dollars, with a net recovery to the landowner, after attorney fees and trial and litigation expenses, of $1 million (inclusive of the Special Commissioners’ Award).
If You Don’t Agree with Final Offer from a Condemning Authority, Get Help Protecting Your Rights
The Condemnation process in Texas is complicated; one mistake or missed deadline could cost a land owner thousands of dollars. If your property is facing condemnation, you’ll want to take the necessary steps to ensure your rights are preserved and you get a fair deal for your land. Contact the law firm of Dawson & Sodd, LLP to schedule a free initial consultation meeting with one of our Texas eminent domain lawyers.