Condemnation is the process through which the government exercises its right of eminent domain. If you are a Texas landowner whose property has been selected for condemnation, there are a few things you should know to protect your rights and ensure you get the compensation for your land that you deserve:
Can The Government Take Your Land?
Both the U.S. Constitution and Texas Constitution give the government the right to seize private property. However, the government is required to provide fair and adequate compensation to property owners and can only take the land for projects intended for public use.
What Is “Public Use” In Texas?
Texas state law says the government or entities who have been granted eminent domain authority can only take your property for a purpose or use that serves the general public. “Public Use” has been applied by various courts to a wide range of projects, including schools, streets, highways, power lines, hospitals, government buildings, parks, flood control, natural gas pipelines, stadiums, bridges, railroads and airports.
Condemnation authorities are prohibited from taking your property to enhance tax revenues or foster economic development. Likewise, they are prohibited from taking property for the purpose of generating income solely for a private entity. The standards for what is and what is not public use are unique to each and every case and should be considered in light of the specific situation of each case.
Does The Entity Wanting Your Land Have Eminent Domain Authority In Texas?
In Texas, private property can only be taken by a governmental entity or private entity authorized by law to do so. State law requires the State Comptroller to maintain an online database of entities who currently possess eminent domain authority In Texas. You can access the database here.
Is The Government Offering Adequate Compensation For Your Property?
Your property cannot be taken without adequate compensation. Unfortunately, the government often fails to take into account the total financial impact their actions will have on a property owner. Adequate compensation should include not only the fair market value of the property being taken, but also compensation for damages if your remaining property’s market value is diminished by the acquisition itself or by the way the condemning entity will use your property. Many times, the government’s offer to a landowner is well below what the landowner is actually entitled to under condemnation laws.
How Do You Determine The Actual Adequate Value Of Your Property?
If you don’t think the government’s offer is adequate, an experienced Texas eminent domain attorney can assemble the needed professionals — appraiser, land planner, engineer, environmental consultant, brokers, developers, etc. — to determine the true value of your land.
Am I Entitled to Relocation Costs?
Under state law, you may be entitled to reimbursement for reasonable relocation expenses if you are displaced from your residence or place of business by the condemnation. There are specific laws that detail what landowners are entitled to for relocation costs.
What If I Decide to Reject the Government’s Offer?
Before a condemning entity can take your land, it must first make a bona fide offer to purchase the property. You have a right to reject this offer if you don’t believe it fairly compensates you for your property.
If you and the condemning entity fail to reach an agreement, they may proceed with the condemnation action by filing a claim for your property in court.
Can You Hire A Lawyer To Represent You?
Texas condemnation laws allow you to hire an attorney to negotiate with the condemning entity and to represent you in any legal proceedings involving the condemnation. It’s recommended that you seek qualified legal representation as soon as you receive notice of a pending condemnation. Even if the request you first seek is for access to your property for a survey, an experienced eminent domain attorney can help you negotiate the terms of entry onto your property and ensure you are adequately protected.
Are Your Rights under Condemnation Laws Being Protected?
Condemnation laws in Texas are complicated and many considerations must be factored in when determining the fair value of a property. Without representation by an experienced Texas property rights lawyer, you could end up losing thousands of dollars in compensation for your land.
If you’re a Texas landowner facing condemnation of your land by the government, we urge you to reach out to Dawson & Sodd. We’ve been protecting the rights of Texas landowners for more than 100 years, and we can help you, too.
Highlighted Case Result
The Texas eminent domain lawyers at Dawson & Sodd have been protecting the rights of Texas property owners for over a century. Take a look at our case results to learn how we’ve helped other Texas property owners obtain more favorable compensation for their property, in some cases was hundreds of thousands of dollars above the amount offered by the government.
In one case, our attorneys helped landowners living in the location of the proposed Ballpark at Arlington (home of the Texas Rangers). We were able to significantly increase their recovery from a collective offer of just $600,000 to collective net compensation of $5 million.