In Texas and many other states in the U.S., the government can seize private property for public use under eminent domain laws. The process by which the government takes the private property is called “condemnation”. Texas condemnation laws can help landowners understand the process and their rights.
If your private property, whether it is residential, vacant or commercial, is threatened with condemnation, consult an eminent domain lawyer immediately. An experienced attorney can help ensure fair compensation and sometimes even prevent the property from being taken.
Texas Condemnation Laws and the Condemnation Process
After the government (or a company granted permission by the government) has decided to exercise eminent domain rights on private property, the condemnation process begins. There are three main steps to the condemnation process, depending on how the condemnation goes:
Step 1: The initial offer and negotiation. The private property that is intended to be seized must be appraised, and an offer to purchase the property must be made to the landowner. A “Landowner Bill of Rights” statement must also be provided to the landowner so they are aware of their rights and options. As a landowner, you are entitled to a copy of all appraisals the condemning authority has obtained concerning your property.
Step 2: A special commissioners hearing. If the landowner accepts what is offered for their property, the deal is sealed and the government may proceed. If not, and negotiations have failed, the process moves to a special commissioners’ hearing. A condemnation petition is filed with the court in the county where the property is located.
The special commissioners will make an award based on the information presented to them (typically only information from the condemning authority) and that award will be filed with the Court. Once that amount is paid into the registry of the Court, the government has the right to take possession of the property. If an attorney has not yet been consulted, it is important to have a knowledgeable Texas eminent domain attorney at this point. There are very critical deadlines that result from all of the various stages of condemnation cases and if you don’t have an experienced eminent domain attorney and you miss one of these critical deadlines, you could be barred from recovering just compensation.
Step 3: Jury trial and appeal. If either of the parties disagrees with the amount of the commissioners’ award, objections must be filed with the court within a certain time frame. This is where a landowner can object to the commissioners’ award and/or the intended use of the property. After a trial, either party may appeal the decision to a Texas Courts of Appeal.
Answers to Your Questions About Eminent Domain in Texas
Only the government has the ultimate power of eminent domain, but certain government agencies can delegate that power. That means in some cases private corporations may have the right to the condemnation of your property.
No. Texas condemnation laws state that you must be provided “just” and “adequate” compensation in an eminent domain condemnation. You can hire your own appraiser to make sure the offer is fair. Perhaps most important, though, is hiring an experienced eminent domain attorney to help through the complicated process.
Yes, you can negotiate on your own in an eminent domain case. But, the laws are very complicated, so it is highly recommended that you find an experienced eminent domain attorney to guide you through the process.
Texas Condemnation Case Results
As a Texas eminent domain law firm, Dawson & Sodd has helped many landowners protect their rights in condemnation cases. For example, in one case we represented a landowner when TxDOT condemned 28 acres for a rest stop along I-35 in Central Texas, destroying all access to the valuable groundwater underneath the tract. The agency extended an offer of only $389,323. The case resulted in a jury verdict for the landowner. Although the State of Texas appealed the verdict, but it eventually agreed to settle for the jury verdict amount before the appellate decision was rendered. The net recovery for the landowner in that case was $3.14 million.
Fight Eminent Domain with a Texas Condemnation Attorney
If you believe your property is being improperly condemned, or you are being unfairly compensated for your property, talk to one of the experienced eminent domain attorneys at Dawson & Sodd, LLP. They fight aggressively for landowner rights and never represent the government or agencies seeking to condemn property.