Can the City of Arlington, TX Force You to Sell Your Property?
Sometimes the City of Arlington will start building projects or authorize companies to install utility lines, pipelines, or other public necessities. However, the land they want to build or install these things on might already be owned. In many cases, the City of Arlington can force landowners to give them their property or push them into selling under a legal power known as “eminent domain.” The Queenan Law Firm’s Arlington eminent domain lawyers explain more about this power and discuss how you can protect your property from forced sale.
Can Arlington’s Government Force Me to Sell My Land?
Technically speaking, no one can force you to sell something you don’t want to sell. A sale requires both parties to willingly agree to an offer, and then exchange the property of their own free will. Eminent domain is considered a taking, not a sale, and the landowner usually does not get to say no.
However, before any government entity or authorized private entity can use eminent domain in Texas, they have to first make a bona fide offer to buy your land. This gives you the chance to willingly sell the property, but you are under no obligation to agree to their offer.
In fact, you should usually reject this initial offer then contact a Texas eminent domain lawyer. In many cases, the initial offer means that eminent domain proceedings will come after. Moreover, the initial offer might be a low-ball offer, and you should work with a lawyer to help negotiate a better price and ensure that the government is not trying to cheat you out of your land. This often involves organizing your own private appraisal of the land before considering a sale.
How Does Eminent Domain Force Me to Give Up My Property in Arlington, TX?
Texas law understands that Texans are not likely to willingly give up their land. As such, eminent domain gives the government a process that they have to go through to accomplish a taking, and the Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights, contained in Texas law, gives Texans certain protections.
The general process that the government has to go through starts with an offer to buy the land. If the landowner accepts and sells the land, there’s no need for eminent domain. However, these sale prices are usually low-ball offers. These sale prices also typically do not take the reduced value of any land that isn’t sold into consideration, which could be a substantial loss that the landowner should be paid for.
If that fails, then the government can file condemnation proceedings. To “condemn” land or a building doesn’t necessarily mean that it is old and falling down, but rather this is the term used for seizing land through eminent domain. Any land or real estate can be condemned, even if you currently use it or live there.
The court’s condemnation process usually involves hearings to establish the price being paid for the land, and then the court orders the owner to turn the land over and the government to issue payment. There are many steps and procedural issues in the way of condemnation, such as notice requirements, and chance to have the price reviewed by a council of local landowners, and chances for hearings and appeals. You also have the right along the way to get an independent appraisal of the land and to use a Texas eminent domain lawyer to help protect your rights.
Challenging Forced Land Sales and Condemnation in Arlington, TX
There are a few different ways under the Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights that a property owner can challenge the government’s attempts to take their land. Sometimes, if the challenge is successful, the court can rule that the taking was illegal and you can keep your property. If the taking is legal but there are procedural issues with what the government did or how they did it, the court can order the government to go back and redo certain steps – properly this time – if they still want to go after your land. Sometimes these challenges are successful simply because the government doesn’t want the land that badly and it isn’t worth the effort of fighting you in court.
The following are some examples of ways that you can challenge eminent domain takings in Texas:
If the government fails to give you notice of a hearing or they do not wait the proper amount of time for various stages of the case, then the court could order them to start that step over, potentially delaying the case a long time
Challenges to Government Authorization
The government can authorize utility companies and other private companies to use eminent domain, but if a company tries to take your land without government authorization, you can fight the case in court and keep your land.
Challenges to “Public Use” Claims
Any land taken through eminent domain has to be used for some “public use.” Building roads or parks are clear public uses, but other uses might be illegal for eminent domain seizures.
Challenges to the Price
If the price paid for the land is too low to be reasonable, the courts can overturn the price. The devaluation of the remaining land or the lost use of that land is often a big factor in setting the price, but this might be ignored in early calculations.
Challenges to Excessive Takings
The government should not take more land than it needs for the project. Any extra land they try to take could be blocked if it isn’t necessary to accomplish the goals set out in establishing the “public use” the land is being condemned for.
Call Our Arlington, TX Eminent Domain Lawyer Today
If you have been contacted by the government or another entity claiming to have government authorization to buy your land, you should hire one of the Arlington eminent domain lawyers at The Queenan Law Firm. Without going through the right processes and steps, no one – not even the government – can force you to sell your property. Our attorneys will work to protect your rights in an eminent domain or condemnation case. Call us today at (817) 476-1797 to set up a free legal consultation.