The government condemns land to acquire property for projects such as highways, reservoirs and schools. The process is known as eminent domain, and it’s a legal procedure that allows the government to take private property from a person or business for public use.
This blog post will explore why governments condemn land to acquire property through eminent domain proceedings and what you need to know if your own home is ever in the path of a government project.
What Is Eminent Domain?
Eminent domain is a power granted in the U.S. and Texas Constitutions that allows governments to seize private property if the government deems taking that property is a public necessity, is for public use would be in the public’s best interest. Governments condemn land to acquire property when the owner either doesn’t want to sell his or her property or the government and the landowner cannot agree on an amount for just compensation.
In the United States, this power is granted in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution: “nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” In other words, governments can legally take private property from citizens as long as they pay just compensation for it.
Eminent Domain Should Be Used by Necessity, Not Convenience
Just because the government can seize property through eminent domain proceedings doesn’t mean they have to do so. Governments should only condemn land to acquire property when doing so is necessary and in the public’s best interest.
Any landowner has the right to decline to sell their property for a government project and proceed to condemnation proceedings in order to ensure that they property being taken is for a public use as well as to ensure they receive just compensation.
Why Do Governments Condemn Land?
Governments condemn land to acquire property for a host of reasons:
- Utilities (water, power, sewers)
- Transportation (highways, airports, mass transit)
- Public facilities (government buildings)
How Does Eminent Domain Work?
Eminent domain proceedings are complicated and time-consuming. Here’s an overview of the legal process:
- A government entity plans a project that will require the use of privately owned land.
- The government offers compensation to the property owner.
- The government and the property owner negotiate an agreement.
- If no agreement is reached, the government goes to court for condemnation proceedings.
Condemnation proceedings involve hearings where evidence by both sides can be presented and can involve a trial, during which both sides must present their case.
After all of this, if it’s ruled that taking private property is necessary for public use, the government must compensate the property owner. However, the government authority will often still try to lowball the compensation they must pay the landowner.
What Are My Rights as a Landowner in Texas?
Under the Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights, all property owners in the state have the following protections in eminent domain proceedings:
- The right to fair compensation when property is taken for a public purpose.
- Land can only be taken for a public use.
- Only government agencies and organizations that have been granted eminent domain power by the government can take your property.
- The entity that wishes to acquire the property must notify the landowner of its intentions.
- The condemning authority must provide the landowner with a valuation of adequate compensation for the property.
- In order to condemn a property, the entity proposing condemnation must make a good faith effort to purchase it.
- The landowner has the option of hiring a Texas eminent domain attorney to negotiate with the acquiring authority.
- Before a property is condemned, the landowner must be given an opportunity to have a hearing before a court-appointed panel of three special commissioners. The amount of compensation owed to the landowner, as well as any decrease in value to the owner’s remaining property, will be determined by this panel.
- If the special commissioners’ decision is not accepted by the landowner, he or she has the right to a jury or judge trial. If the court’s decision is found unsatisfactory, it may be appealed.
Concerned About Your Home or Property? Contact a Texas Condemnation Attorney.
If you’re concerned about your home or property being subjected to condemnation proceedings, we urge you to speak with a Texas eminent domain attorney at Dawson & Sodd immediately. No matter why the government seeks to condemn your land, our experienced land rights lawyers can review the circumstances of your property and build a strong case to fight to make sure you receive maximum compensation for your property.
Dawson & Sodd has offices in Dallas and Corsicana, and we help landowners through the Lone Star State to protect their landowner rights. For more information about eminent domain proceedings and what you can do, contact us today for a consultation.