In Texas, eminent domain laws allow for the government or a private entity authorized by the government to “condemn” or take private property for the benefit of public use. Under the U.S. Constitution, though, a government entity is not legally allowed to take a private landowner’s property without compensation. What are the landowner rights for individuals facing condemnation in Texas?
The condemnation process is outlined in Chapter 21 of the Texas Property Code. Property may be taken for several reasons, such as:
- To build infrastructure, such as highways, bridges or railroads.
- For utility projects, such as water and sewer lines, gas pipelines, or electric transmission lines.
- Building large-scale commercial projects that have public benefit, such as arenas, shopping centers or ballparks.
In some cases, a government entity may condemn the landowner’s entire parcel of land. Other times, it may just seek part of the land or an easement. In an case, Texas landowners have the right to just compensation for that property.
Texas Landowners’ Bill of Rights
Landowner Rights for individuals facing eminent domain takings according to the Texas Landowners’ Bill of Rights include:
- The right to adequate compensation for property taken for a public use.
- Property can only be taken for a public use.
- Property can only be taken by a government authority or private entity authorized by a government authority.
- The entity that seeks the property must give notification to the landowner of its interest.
- The condemning entity must provide the landowner with an assessment of adequate compensation for the property.
- The entity proposing condemnation of the property must make a good faith effort to buy it.
- The landowner has the right to hire a Texas eminent domain attorney to negotiate with the condemning authority.
- The landowner is entitled to a hearing before a court-appointed panel of 3 special commissioners before the property is condemned. This panel must determine the amount of compensation owed to the landowner, including compensation for any reduction in value to the landowner’s remaining property.
- The landowner has the right to trial by judge or jury if he or she is not satisfied by the special commissioners’ decision. The trial court’s judgment may also be appealed if that decision is found unsatisfactory.
Frequently Asked Questions about Landowner Rights For Individuals Facing Condemnation in Texas
The State of Texas requires the State Comptroller’s Office to maintain publicly accessible website listing the entities that have eminent domain authority in Texas.
In general, all levels of government have eminent domain power — federal, state, county and municipal, as well as water districts and school districts. Public utility companies also may have the authority to use eminent domain, such as for power lines or pipelines.
There are a few requirements that must be met before private property can be take by eminent domain. First, it must be a government entity, or a private entity acting under government authority, that is taking the property. Second, the taking must by for a public use. Last, the condemning authority must pay just and adequate compensation to the landowner.
The first 2 requirements are difficult to fight in court, but not always impossible. If it can be proven that the entity does not have eminent domain authority, or that the land is not being taken for a public use, then it may be possible to stop the condemning process.
The short answer is — YES.
The government entity is supposed to offer “just and adequate” compensation to landowners. In truth, condemning entities often hire professional agents whose job is to acquire the land as quickly and cheaply as possible.
You not only have a right to refuse the government’s initial offer, but it is mostly likely the smartest move you can make, especially if you have not had time to consult with an experienced eminent domain attorney.
Highlighted Case Result
The attorneys of Dawson & Sodd have been protecting the rights of Texas landowners for decades. We have helped many property owners to significantly increase their compensation from the government’s initial offer.
In one case, our client was a homeowner whose property was taken to make way for the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. Our client was initially only offered $351,000. Our law firm negotiated a final settlement that resulted in a net recovery to the homeowner of $1.9 million after fees and expenses.
Dawson & Sodd Can Help Protect Your Rights as a Landowner
If you are a landowner who has been notified that your property is facing condemnation, the Texas eminent domain lawyers at Dawson & Sodd can help you decide how to proceed. Our experienced condemnation attorneys understand landowner rights for individuals facing condemnation and can guide you through the process to help ensure just, fair and full compensation for your property.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.