Can The Government Offer Me Less Than Fair Market Value For My Property?
At the law offices of Dawson & Sodd, our Texas eminent domain lawyers have spoken with many clients who feel the government is offering less than fair market value for their land during a condemnation proceeding.
The U.S. Constitution and the Texas State Constitution both give the government the right of eminent domain — the power to seize privately owned land for public use. However, when the government exercises its power to seize a piece of property — in a process known as condemnation — they must pay the property owner “just” or “adequate” compensation for their land.
Just or adequate compensation generally means that a property owner should expect to get at least the same price for their land from the government that they would get if they sold the property on the open market, plus the loss in value to the rest of the property if the government takes only a portion.
You Don’t Have to Accept Their Offer
Can the government offer you less than fair market value for your property? Absolutely. In fact, the government as well as a number of private corporations who have been granted eminent domain authority by the government do it all the time. Do you have to accept their offer? Absolutely not.
Our advice: before you accept the government’s final offer, talk with an experienced eminent domain attorney. Under Texas state law, a property owner can hire their own appraiser to determine the value of their property or to assist them in any condemnation proceeding. An experienced eminent domain attorney can help you select a qualified appraiser. Appraisers familiar with eminent domain proceedings are highly specialized and you don’t want to hire an appraiser without the advice of an experienced condemnation attorney.
Obtaining Fair and Just Compensation in Texas
Experienced eminent domain attorneys can guide you as to whether or not the offer you have received is less than fair market value and whether it compensates you for all you are entitled to under Texas law. There is a chance a compromise can be reached if you have the right person negotiating for you. However, it may become necessary to proceed to a condemnation lawsuit.
Typically, the first step after suit is filed would be a special commissioners’ hearing. This is a hearing before a court appointed panel that includes three special commissioners, who are landowners in the county in which the suit is filed. These special commissioners issue an “award”, which is supposedly the amount of compensation the condemning entity owes for the taking of your property as well as what compensation, if any, you are entitled to receive for any reduction in value of your remaining property. However, both the landowner and the condemning entity can appeal this decision to a district court, so it is not binding on either side.
If you are unsatisfied with the decision made by the special commissioners, you have the right to a trial by a judge or jury. If the court decides in your favor, they may also award you reimbursement for attorneys, appraisers, photographers and other expenses incurred to the date of the hearing or judgment. If you aren’t happy with the trial court’s ruling, you have a right to appeal that decision.
We Fight for Fair and Adequate Compensation for Texas Landowners
Having an experienced Texas eminent domain attorney on your side is the best way to ensure you get the fair and adequate compensation guaranteed under the Constitution. At Dawson & Sodd, our attorneys see many landowners being offered much less than they are entitled to and we make it our mission to ensure our clients get what they deserve.
If you are a landowner facing the loss of all or a part of your property to an eminent domain action, we urge you to reach out to Dawson & Sodd. We’ve been protecting the rights of Texas property owners for over a century. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation and learn how we can help.
Texas Eminent Domain FAQs
When a government entity with the power of eminent domain in Texas selects a property for condemnation, one of the first steps in the process is asking permission to enter their property to conduct a professional survey.
While a property owner can refuse to give them access, this usually won’t stop the survey and won’t stop the condemnation process.
Texas landowners do not have to accept a final offer from a condemning authority. If you accept the offer, the process is over. If you choose not to, the next step in most cases is that the condemning entity will file a condemnation lawsuit to obtain the land. The, the presiding judge will convene what is called a Special Commissioners’ Hearing.
In general, federal, state, county and municipal governments have the right of eminent domain. Water districts, school districts and public utilities may also exercise eminent domain.
Highlighted Eminent Domain Case Result
When TxDOT condemned 28 acres for a rest stop along I-35 in Central Texas, it only offered $389,323. Sine the acquisition destroyed all access to the valuable groundwater underneath the tract, the landowner felt this to be well below fair market value.
The case went to trial and resulted in a jury verdict for the landowner. The State of Texas appealed the verdict but eventually agreed to settle for the jury verdict amount before the appellate decision was rendered. The net recovery for the landowner in that case was $3.14 million.
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