The Texas eminent domain lawyers at Dawson and Sodd are dedicated to protecting the rights of Texas landowners who face losing their property to a governmental entity through eminent domain. Many property owners in Texas are unfamiliar with the laws and procedures surrounding the condemnation process. They may not be aware of their rights in these circumstances. We strive to make the details as clear as possible for our clients, explaining the steps in the Texas condemnation process and answering any questions they might have.
One of our clients’ biggest concerns is that they get a fair deal and just compensation for their property. They want to know if they can refuse the government’s first offer and what their options are for fighting the eminent domain action.
The Constitutions of the United States and the State of Texas both give the government powers of eminent domain to obtain private property for public use. It also grants property owners certain rights that protect them from having their property seized without due process and fair compensation.
You Can Refuse the Government’s First Offer
The condemnation process in Texas often begins when a governmental entity with condemnation power determines that it needs your property to complete a public use project, such as a construction of a new road or installation of a new water line. The entity will sometimes perform a real estate appraisal to determine the value of your land and then make you a purported “bona fide” offer based on this appraisal.
Condemning entities often hire professional agents to obtain the properties needed for a public project. Their job is to acquire the land as quickly and as cheaply as possible. They work for the governmental entities to get as much of the property bought as cheap as possible and ensure that the project can move forward according to the entity’s timeline. Many times, they will try and intimidate property owners to agree to terms that might not be in the property owner’s best interest. Many times, they will seem like they’re trying to help property owners and be very accommodating, but the truth is that their #1 goal is to get your property as cheap as they can and they’re not working in your best interests.
One of the most important things you can do before you talk to anyone with the governmental entity, including the right of way agents or the company trying to get your property bought, is to consult an experienced eminent domain attorney. It costs landowners nothing to pick up the phone and ask an experienced eminent domain attorney a few questions. It’s important to do this before you talk to anyone with the condemning authority, and, most certainly, before you sign anything.
So what happens if you think your land is worth more than the condemnation entity is offering? You have a right to refuse the government’s initial offer if you believe it does not adequately compensate you for your property. In fact, if you refuse the government’s first offer, especially if you have not had time to consult with an experienced Texas condemnation attorney, it may be the smartest move you can make.
What Happens Next
If you reject the initial offering, the condemnation entity will file suit to obtain the land. A Special Commissioners’ Hearing will be convened. This is an informal administrative proceeding, during which the condemning entity and the landowner are allowed submit evidence supporting their estimates on the fair market value of the property.
Either side can object to the special commissioners’ findings as long as the objection is filed before the legal deadline. The deadlines are not like other civil lawsuits and are extremely important—-this is yet another reason to consult an experienced eminent domain attorney as quickly as possible. If you decide to appeal the Commissioners’ decision, your case will move forward in a manner similar to other civil lawsuits. This verdict can also be appealed. Be aware that in most instances, the condemning entity can take possession of the land during the appeals process.
Frequently Asked Questions About Eminent Domain in Texas
When a government entity selects a property for condemnation in Texas, one of the first steps is to request the right to enter the property to conduct a professional survey. While Texas’ eminent domain laws do not include any right to entry statutes, denying the request does not necessarily mean that you’ll be preventing the survey — or the eminent domain action — from moving forward.
When land is being targeted for eminent domain in Texas, the property owner has every right to negotiate with the condemning authority on their own without an eminent domain lawyer. However, this could be an extremely costly mistake.
Most landowners aren’t familiar with ins and outs of eminent domain laws. The right lawyer can protect your rights and help you avoid any mistakes that could prevent you from getting the full value of your land.
Read more about how an attorney can help with negotiating an eminent domain case.
When private property rights are taken or damaged for public use without compensation, eminent domain laws allow a property owner to file an inverse condemnation lawsuit seeking compensation for the value of the property that was taken, damaged, or destroyed.
Read more about inverse condemnation claims.
Highlighted Case Results
In many instances, it is not possible to prevent a government entity with the power of eminent domain from acquiring your land. However, it is almost always possible to get a higher market value for your land than the initial offer when you have an experienced Texas property rights attorney on your side.
In one notable case, Dawson & Sodd represented a landowner whose gas wells were being sought by a condemnor in an area that was to be flooded by a new lake.
Although the property owner was initially offered just $20,000, Dawson & Sodd were able to negotiate a $7.5 million settlement. The net recovery to the landowner was $4.93 million after legal fees and litigation expenses.
Eminent Domain Attorneys in Texas Protect Your Rights
At Dawson & Sodd, we have been helping Texas land owners navigate the complicated condemnation process for over a century. Our outstanding Texas condemnation lawyers have the skills and expertise to protect your rights and ensure you receive just compensation for your property.
If your property is facing condemnation and you feel the government’s offer does not provide the fair and just compensation you should be paid for your property, call the Texas eminent domain attorneys at Dawson & Sodd today at 903-872-8181 (Corsicana) or 214-373-8181 (Dallas).