In many instances, a property owner in Texas can’t prevent the government or other entity with eminent domain authority from condemning and taking their land. What they can do is take steps to ensure they receive full value for the property that is taken.
Both the U.S. Constitution and the Texas state Constitution guarantee that a property owner is entitled to certain rights . This includes a “just” and “adequate” compensation for their land when it is taken by the government or other entity in an eminent domain action.
The Government Must Make A Bona Fide Offer To Buy Land Using Eminent Domain in Texas
Before an entity with eminent domain power in the state of Texas can take your land, they must first make a bona fide offer to buy it. This offer is based on an appraisal by a certified appraiser (that they hire.) The offer will state the just and/or adequate compensation you are owed for your property and how they arrived at this amount. The State of Texas Landowners Bill of Rights states that this amount should include the value of the property being acquired as well as the damages, if any, to any of the remaining property.
The entity’s final offer must be equal or greater than the amount of the written appraisal. The property owner then has 14 days to respond to accept or reject this final offer.
The Problem With the Government’s Bona Fide Offer in Texas
There is a problem with this. In most circumstances, the amount that the entity with eminent domain authority considers to be fair compensation for a parcel of land may be a lot less than what the property owner is entitled to. It is also typically a lot less than what the landowner thinks his or her property is worth.
Just compensation is the current fair market value for a piece of property. The owner is entitled to the same amount of money they would receive if they placed the property on the open market. Determining just compensation is important when an entire piece of property is being taken. If only a portion of a piece of land is taken, or will be used for only a specific period of time, the owner needs to consider what is “adequate” compensation for the difference in property values before and after the taking.
What if You Don’t Think the Offer is Just and Adequate Compensation?
At the law offices of Dawson & Sodd, we’ve received many complaints from Texas landowners. They feel the amount they’ve been offered for their land in a condemnation proceeding is much less than what they consider to be just compensation. In these circumstances, we advise them to hire an experienced Texas eminent domain attorney. An attorney can bring in an independent appraiser and other expert witnesses. They will determine the true just and adequate value of your property. They will use the new appraisal to renegotiate the taking entity’s “bona fide” offer. It will also be evidence in court if a lawsuit is necessary.
Some factors to consider when determining the fair market value of a property include:
- Current market value of the land
- Loss of income
- Loss of use/accessibility
- The size of the property
- Tax declarations
- The level of development
- Current use and potential use
- Interest payments
- Any land improvements seized
- The use to which the condemning authority will put the part taken and how that will affect the remaining property
- Specific damages caused by the taking
- Unique characteristics (historic structures, natural resources, etc.)
Answers to Your Texas Eminent Domain Questions
Under Title 10, Subtitle E, Chapter 2206 of the Texas Government Code, federal, state, county and municipal governments have the authority to take property through eminent domain, as can water districts and school districts. In addition to these, public utility companies also have been allowed to use eminent domain for power lines, pipelines, transformers, etc.
When a condemning authority in Texas chooses your property for eminent domain, one of the first steps is to request the right to enter your property to conduct a professional survey.
The law does not specifically include any right to entry statutes for eminent domain, so technically a property owner can refuse to grant access for such a survey. Unfortunately, doing this won’t necessarily stop the survey or stop the condemnation from proceeding.
There is no requirement under Texas law that says landowners need an attorney to negotiate with a condemning authority regarding eminent domain matter. However, negotiating on your own is not advisable.
A Texas eminent domain attorney has the knowledge, experience and skill to protect your rights and help you avoid making mistakes that could result in you not getting the full value of your land.
Highlighted Texas Eminent Domain Case Results
The eminent domain attorneys at Dawson & Sodd serve the entire state of Texas, helping landowners maximize their compensation and protect their rights during eminent domain actions.
For example, in a case in which a ranch owner whose large and productive ranch was repeatedly flooded by water releases from an upstream lake, the condemning authority extended our client a final offer of $200,000. We won a $34.2 million dollar recovery 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.
At Dawson & Sodd, We Want to Ensure You Get Fair and Adequate Compensation
Don’t accept any offer, bona fide or not, before speaking with the award winning Texas eminent domain attorneys at Dawson & Sodd. Let us put our 100-plus years of experience and knowledge to work on your behalf to protect your rights and ensure you receive the just and adequate compensation you deserve under the law.
If you are a Texas property owner who’s facing losing all or part of your land in an eminent domain action, please reach out Dawson & Sodd today to schedule a free consultation.