Businesses and other commercial properties often need space with access to high traffic areas, such as along highways and other heavily traveled roadways. Unfortunately, these areas are also often susceptible to condemnation through eminent domain laws, when the government decides to step in and purchase the property for road widenings, utility expansions and other public use projects. If you’ve been notified that your commercial property has been targeted for condemnation, it’s important to know Texas landowner rights for businesses facing eminent domain proceedings.
Reasons Why Private Property Is Taken
Texas eminent domain laws allow for government authorities or entities that they authorize to take private land for public use — that includes land belonging to a business or commercial landowner. Some examples of public use include:
- Building highways, bridges, rail lines, etc.
- Running gas pipelines, electrical power lines or other utilities.
- Building large commercial projects that benefit the public good, such as shopping centers or arenas.
In some cases, a government entity may purchase an entire plot of land for such purposes. In other cases, it may only seek a portion of the land for the intended project. No matter how much of your business or commercial property is sought, the U.S. Constitution says that you as a business or commercial landowner have the right to fair compensation.
Texas Landowner Bill of Rights
According to Sec. 402.031 of the Texas Government Code and Chapter 21 of the Texas Property Code, commercial landowners have the following rights when any government or private entity attempts to take your property:
- Right to adequate compensation for property taken for public use.
- Right to only have your land taken if it is for public use.
- Right to only have property taken by a government entity or private entity authorized by the government.
- Right to be notified of an interest in taking your property.
- Right to be provided with an assessment of fair compensation for your property.
- Right to get a good faith offer from the entity proposing to buy the property before that entity files a lawsuit condemning your property.
- Right to hire an appraiser to determine the value of your own property.
- Right to hire an attorney to negotiate on your behalf and represent you in legal proceedings related to the eminent domain proceedings.
- Right to a hearing before a court-appointed panel of 3 special commissioners before your property is condemned.
- This panel decides the compensation you should be owed for your property.
- Right to take your case before a judge or jury if you the panel’s decision is unsatisfactory or if you believe the taking of your property didn’t follow proper procedures. You also have the right to appeal this court’s judgment.
Frequently Asked Questions about Eminent Domain in Texas
The first to understanding your rights as an agricultural tenant is to read your lease agreement. If it contains a condemnation clause, it will typically govern the rights of the parties with respect to compensation during an eminent domain action.
If the lease doesn’t contain a condemnation clause, then the tenant will probably be able to seek compensation for your leasehold interest as well as relocation costs.
Can the government offer a business landowner less than fair market value for their property? Yes, absolutely. In fact, it is done all the time. Here is a more important question: Does the business property owner have to accept their offer? NO, they do not.
Private property can only be taken under eminent domain authority for public use or purpose. In most cases, the only landowner rights for businesses is to negotiate for fair compensation for their land. However, if a court determines that the condemnation is not for a public use, you may be able to prevent your property from being taken.
Highlighted Eminent Domain Case Results
At Dawson & Sodd, our eminent domain lawyers in Dallas and Corsicana serve the entire state of Texas. We help protect landowner rights for businesses facing eminent domain proceedings.
In one case result, our attorneys helped a convenience store owner in Farmers Branch after TxDOT filed suit to take valuable land from his site. Our attorneys established that the State lacked legal authority to acquire the land as part of the I-35E project. The State agreed to dismiss the condemnation in 2013. The convenience store owner retained a very profitable site.
Get Help Protecting Your Rights As a Commercial Landowner in Texas
At Dawson & Sodd, our experienced attorneys can help you understand your options. We will guide you throughout the process to maximize the compensation you receive for your commercial property.
Contact us today for immediate assistance.