The U.S. and Texas Constitutions say that a Texas landowner must receive fair and just compensation for any property taken in an eminent domain action. In most cases, this means the fair market value of their property — the price they would likely get if they placed the property on the market for sale plus any damages to their remaining property.
When an entity with eminent domain authority wishes to take private property for a public use project, one of the first steps in the condemnation process is to provide the landowner with an offer that of compensation for the property they wish to take. This amount is arrived at after an appraisal of the property by a certified appraiser working for the entity wishing to acquire the land.
Title 4 Sec 21.0113 of the Texas property code states that before making a final offer, the condemning entity must obtain a written appraisal from a certified appraiser stating the value of the property being acquired and the damages, if any, to the property owner’s remaining property; and that the final offer is equal to, or greater than, the amount of the written appraisal obtained by the entity.
Issues with the Condemning Authority Appraiser Assessment
As you can imagine, it’s not uncommon for a landowner to have issues with the condemning authority appraiser’s opinion of their property’s worth:
- In some instances, the value assigned to their property by the condemning authority is less than they believe it to be worth.
- The condemning authority appraiser may not have included features or improvements made to the property that add to its value.
- They may also feel that the appraisal does not fully take into account the “highest and best use” of the property. When appraising a piece of land such as a vacant lot or developed property, the appraiser must consider not only the land’s current market value but also its value based on the legally permissible, physically possible, financially feasible and most productive “highest and best use” of the land.
- If only part of the land is taken, the condemning authority appraiser doesn’t include losses or damages to the rest of the property.
Getting an Independent Appraisal
A landowner typically needs to have their own independent appraisal done before accepting the condemning authority’s offer. Often times, the condemning authority’s appraisal does not account for many aspects of market value or damages because the appraiser is working for the entity who has to pay the landowner.
Experienced eminent domain attorneys can assist landowners in getting a fair appraisal that accurately reflects the amount of just compensation the property owner is entitled to under Texas law.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Texas Landowner Rights in Condemnation Cases
At Dawson & Sodd, we encourage potential clients to make a list of questions to ask an eminent domain attorney before their initial consultation. Some questions we recommend include:
• What is your experience with eminent domain cases?
• Have you handled cases similar to mine?
• What is your track record with condemnation cases?
• If I hire your firm, who will work on my case?
• Do you represent any condemning authorities or just landowners?
In Texas, condemnation is the process by which a government entity exercises its eminent domain authority to obtain land for certain public use projects. The law requires that the condemning authority either settle with the property owner for fair market value of the land or exercise their right to condemn before they begin to use the property. In some cases, public projects result in private land being taken or damaged without compensation. When this happens, the property owner has the right to file an inverse condemnation lawsuit seeking compensation for the value of the property that was taken, damaged, or destroyed.
Many Texas landowners lease out their property for raising crops or livestock. If that land is taken under eminent domain, the law requires that the property owner be paid a fair market value for the loss of their land. Depending on the language in the lease agreement, agricultural tenants may also be entitled to compensation.
Highlighted Eminent Domain Case Results
The law offices of Dawson & Sodd have been protecting the rights of Texas property owners for more than a century. We have helped many landowners overcome issues with condemning authority appraisers and significantly increase the compensation paid for their property.
In one notable case, a homeowner was offered $351,000 for her home, which was taken for the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Our attorneys negotiated a final settlement resulted in a net recover to the homeowner of $1.9 million after fees and expenses.
We Help Texans Fight Unreasonable Condemning Authority Appraiser Assessments
It’s important for property owners to protect their rights during a condemnation proceeding. Our team of eminent domain attorneys have represented Texas property owners in a wide range of property disputes involving eminent domain, condemnation, easements and inverse condemnation to name a few. We fight hard and have an impressive track record when it comes to getting our clients the “real” fair and just compensation for their land, which in some cases can be millions of dollars more than the amount the condemning entity’s appraised at.
There are strict deadlines for appealing a decision to take your land. Now is the time to take action to ensure you receive the true value of your property — contact the Texas eminent domain attorneys at Dawson & Sodd.