For many Texas property owners, the first notice they get that their land is being considered for condemnation is in the form of a “right of entry” request to allow access for surveyors or other personnel onto their property.
When TxDOT or some other entity with the power of eminent domain in Texas selects a property for condemnation, one of the first steps in the process is to ask the property’s owner for the right to enter their property to conduct a professional survey of their land.
In order to acquire property through the legal exercise of eminent domain authority, the condemning entity must first adequately and clearly define the location of that property. This is accomplished by conducting a survey of the property to accurately locate, describe and map the boundaries and corners of the selected parcel of land, providing the necessary data to prepare a comprehensive legal description of the property. The survey results will serve as the basis for any appraisals and offers to purchase land.
Right of Entry Request in Texas
Unlike some other states, Texas’ eminent domain laws do not include any right to entry statutes. This means the condemning authority must ask permission from the property owner to conduct a survey of the land being considered for acquisition. In eminent domain cases involving TxDOT, this takes the form of a “Request for Right of Entry for Land Surveying” letter sent to property owners.
Can a property owner refuse to give them access? Absolutely. However, this usually won’t stop the survey and won’t stop the condemnation process from moving forward. The right to enter a property arises as soon as the condemnation entity first proposes to acquire the land, assuming the entity has the power of eminent domain. Texas law allows an entity with the power of eminent domain to obtain a temporary or permanent restraining order preventing the landowner from interfering with the survey.
It is important to contact an experienced eminent domain attorney as soon as you receive a right of entry request to be sure that you should allow the survey and to protect your rights. Any time any entity or person without an ownership interest in your property wants to enter it, there are many items to consider and experienced eminent domain attorneys can help you with this.
The Survey Isn’t the End of the Process – It’s Only the Beginning
Just because you are forced to allow a survey to take place doesn’t mean you’ve lost your case. There are many different ways for you to protect your property rights and these come into play even at the early surveying point of the process.
Only entities with legal condemnation authority can force you to allow a survey on your land. Before you give permission for a survey of your land, check with a Texas property rights attorney. Though you likely won’t be able to stop the survey, it is important to be guided through the various implications of executing a right of entry form and be sure you and your property are adequately protected.
Answers to Your Questions About Eminent Domain in Texas
Not to be confused with declaring a building condemned because it is unlivable, condemnation is the process by which the government takes private land for public use. This is also known as eminent domain. Some examples of eminent domain projects might be highways, gas or water lines, or even parks.
The government ultimately has the power to seize property under eminent domain laws. But they also have the power to authorize private companies to exercise this power as well. Making sure the entity requesting your land has the authority to do so is one of the first questions you’ll need answered.
If you can prove that an eminent domain entity has not met all of the requirements under condemnation laws, then it is possible to stop an eminent domain acquisition. This is difficult, but not impossible. The main requirements that must be met are:
• The entity making the request must have the right to make that request
• The land must be acquired for public use
• You have been fairly compensated for your property
Dawson & Sodd Highlighted Case Results
Dawson & Sodd have helped many landowners secure outstanding case results over the years, including some high profile cases. For example, we helped landowners living in the location of the proposed Ballpark at Arlington (home of the Texas Rangers) increase their compensation from an initial collective offer of only $600,000 to a net compensation of $5 million.
In addition to negotiating settlements, our attorneys are also well known for trial victories. For instance, in the case of a ranch owner whose large and productive ranch was repeatedly flooded by water releases from an upstream lake, our attorneys turned a final offer of $200,000 from the condemning entity into a $34.2 million dollar jury verdict that 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.
We Fight for the Rights of Texas Property Owners
The first thing any land owner should do after receiving a right of entry request is to speak with an attorney who is experienced in condemnation cases. The Texas eminent domain lawyers at Dawson & Sodd possess the expertise, knowledge and resources to guide you through every step of the process and ensure you get a fair deal for your land.
If you find yourself faced with the process of losing your property, please call Dawson & Sodd without delay. Our law firm has represented property owners in eminent domain cases all over the state of Texas, and we can help you, too.