Eminent domain, also called “condemnation,” is the power of the state or federal government, and private companies acting under government authority, to condemn and force the sale of private property that is necessary for a public use. As the Texas population continues to grow, its need for basic infrastructure — highways, roads, rail lines, electric transmission lines, gas pipelines, water pipelines, and other public projects — will continue to grow.
While some of this growth may be accommodated by updating existing infrastructure, there will be a need for new projects. If own commercial, residential, industrial or rural property, there is an increasing chance your property might be condemned.
Types of Takings
Chapter 21 of the Texas Property Code sets out the requirements, processes, and procedures the government must follow when condemning property.
The Property Code provides, among other requirements, the procedures for:
- Negotiations with the landowner prior to filing a condemnation case (§ 21.0113)
- The filing of the condemnation petition (§ 21.012)
- Special commissioner’s hearing (§ 21.014 – 21.016)
- Appeal from the special commissioner’s hearing (§ 21.018)
- Assessment of damages (§ 21.042)
- A condemnor’s ability to gain possession of property pending litigation (§ 21.021)
- Dismissal of condemnation proceedings (§ 21.019 – 21.0195)
- The right of repurchase (§ 21.101 – 21.103)
There are several different types of takings.
The most common type of taking, this refers to what everyone thinks of when discussing eminent domain — the government suing a landowner to acquire their land for a public project.
When a condemning authority takes property without following the statutory process it is called inverse condemnation. In an inverse case, the LANDOWNER files the lawsuit against the condemnor. There are also several different types of inverse takings, including:
Regulatory: This occurs when a landowner is denied all economically viable use of their property or when a taking unreasonably
interfere with a landowner’s enjoyment of their property.
Exactions: This refers to cases in which the government requires a landowner to “trade” money or other development concessions for the government’s approval or permitting.
Examples of Arguable Public Uses in Texas Eminent Domain Cases
- Public highways
- Public parks
- Military bases
- Public buildings, such as a library, police station, courthouse, or public schools
- Public transportation facilities
- Airports available for use by the public
- Oil, gas, and water transmission pipelines
- Water, sewer, and storm drainage infrastructure
- Sport venues
The United States and Texas Constitutions guarantee just and adequate compensation when a condemning authority takes private property. This means that landowner must be fully compensated for any property taken, damaged, or destroyed for public use.
The value of the property being taken and the damages to remaining land is usually a matter of intense debate. In the event of a dispute, the owner has the option to challenge the government’s appraised value of the property.
If you feel that the government’s offer for your property is unfair, the law provides you with the opportunity to demonstrate the amount of just compensation you should be paid. If you feel the use for which your property is being taken is not a public use, you may contest that matter.
The legal and factual issues that arise in a condemnation case are numerous and complicated. In most cases, the landowner is best served by seeking representation from an experienced condemnation attorney. At Dawson & Sodd, our practice is focused only on helping landowners with the complex process of obtaining a fair result.
ANSWERS TO YOUR TEXAS EMINENT DOMAIN QUESTIONS
If you believe your land is worth more than the government is offering, you absolutely have the right to refuse the initial offer, especially if you have not had time to consult with an experienced Texas condemnation attorney. In fact, refusing the first offer may be the smartest move you can make.
The eminent domain condemnation process begins when a condemning entity makes plans for a public project that includes the need for taking private property. The condemning entity must make a bona fide offer to acquire the property from the property owner voluntarily.
If the landowner and the condemning entity do not agree on the value of the property, the entity will begin condemnation proceedings.
Title 10, Subtitle E, Chapter 2206 of the Texas Government Code describes the rules and regulations pertaining to eminent domain in Texas. In general, federal, state, county and municipal governments can take property through eminent domain, as can water districts and school districts. Public utility companies also have been allowed to use eminent domain to procure property for power lines, pipelines, transformers, etc.
Dawson & Sodd Gets Outstanding Case Results
Our years of experience and relationships with other landowner-lawyers informs us that Dawson & Sodd’s past recoveries include outcomes that are among the largest “spreads” between low offers and high recoveries in Texas history.
For example, Dawson & Sodd significantly increased the collective recovery for landowners living in the location of the proposed Ballpark at Arlington (home of the Texas Rangers), from an initial collective offer of only $600,000 to a net compensation of $5 million.
In addition to successfully winning favorable settlements, we have also obtained a range of positive trial court and appellate outcomes.
In one such case, a ranch owner’s large and productive ranch was repeatedly flooded by water releases from an upstream lake. A final offer of $200,000 was extended to the landowner, but a $34.2 million dollar recovery was upheld by the Texas Supreme Court. The net recovery to the landowners was $21.9 million after legal fees and litigation, trial, and appellate expenses.