Can the State of Texas Take Your Land?
If you live in Texas, the Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights lays out some strong requirements and processes to help protect landowners from eminent domain seizures that are too fast or fail to properly pay the owner for their land. Unfortunately, most of these rules and other laws on the books do not stop eminent domain entirely, and the Texas government is often authorized to legally take your land from you. However, there are things you can do to protect your rights and fight the taking along the way. Our Arlington eminent domain attorneys at The Queenan Law Firm explain.
Can You Stop Texas from Taking Your Land through Eminent Domain?
In most cases, once the government decides to seize your land through eminent domain, nothing can stop them. However, there are ways to challenge the process and the price that could make it no longer “worth it” to take your land from you. Additionally, there are a few ways that challenging the seizure could actually stop the eminent domain proceedings in their tracks. Our Dallas eminent domain lawyers can help with these kinds of cases.
When the Texas government wants to take your property, it needs to follow some strict protocols. The Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights lays out the specific rules they need to follow and tells landowners what their rights are. To summarize these rules…
- The government has to be the one taking the land, so if it isn’t the government (or an authorized company like a utilities company), then the case can be shut down.
- The government needs to try to pay you first, or else they need to go back and start over.
- The government needs to have a “public use” for the land; they can’t take it for a private company or individual’s use.
There are other strict rules about how these processes need to be executed and in what order, but these are the core issues that can be challenged in eminent domain cases. Sometimes challenging these issues leads to success; if the court sees that the entity is not properly authorized or that the reason they want the land does not benefit the public, the eminent domain action should stop. However, if the government is taking your land to build roads, improve utilities, build pipelines, or perform some other obvious public use, the only thing you can challenge is the processes, their timing, and the payments.
If the government makes any missteps and fails to perform procedural steps at the right time, they might need to start over again with the seizure process, which could drag out the proceedings long enough that it is no longer “worth it” to take your land.
Does the State of Texas Have to Pay for Property in Eminent Domain?
If the State of Texas wants to take your property for public use, they have to pay you a fair price for it. They also need to make you a bona fide purchase offer first before turning to eminent domain. With the eminent domain process, the government exerts a lot of pressure on landowners, and it is often difficult to determine what a fair price is and how much you should be paid for your land through eminent domain. Many times, working with a Houston eminent domain lawyer will help you get the fair value you need by fighting for your case in the following ways.
Getting an Independent Appraisal
Landowners in Texas have the right to seek an independent appraisal and get help from a lawyer when the government approaches them with an eminent domain offer. This can help you understand whether the initial purchase offer is fair for your property or not. In most cases, the government’s initial offer to buy land will be a low-ball offer, so you usually should lawyer-up and reject the offer at that point. If they are starting off with low prices, it likely isn’t going to improve as you go unless you fight for your rights with the help of an attorney.
Calculating the Reduced Value of the Remaining Property
When you get your independent appraisal, you might find that the government’s offer was actually incredibly low. In many cases, the government leaves off certain considerations in order to drive down the price. One of the biggest considerations about the value of your property is what will happen to the rest of your property if the government takes part of it. For instance, if they want to bulldoze your house to build a highway, but leave you with some of your property, the leftover parcel(s) might not be big enough to properly build on or to use the land in any meaningful way. That would drastically reduce the value of the remaining property. The government needs to pay for this kind of reduction in value as well as the price of the property they are taking.
Challenging Excessive Takings
Sometimes the government’s offer will seem high, but that might be because the government is actually offering to buy a much larger piece of land than it seems they would need. For instance, many eminent domain cases involve the purchase of land to install utility lines and boxes. This kind of taking should involve only a small piece or strip of land, but if the government is trying to buy a 10-foot-wide strip, the price would be higher. In many of these cases, the government tries to take far more land than they need. We can also challenge this kind of excessive taking and work to reduce what the government is trying to take, getting a fair price for what they need and stopping them from taking anything extra.
Call Our Texas Eminent Domain Lawyer for Help Protecting Your Land
While most eminent domain cases do meet the necessary requirements for eminent domain, you have every right to hire an attorney to defend your rights and work to ensure that your land is not taken without a proper fight and without proper payment. For help with your eminent domain case in Texas, contact our attorneys at The Queenan Law Firm. For a free legal consultation, call us today at (817) 476-1797.