Can the City of Dallas Use Eminent Domain?
The government has the power to take private property for the public good under the laws of both the United States and Texas. Dallas is a government entity, meaning the City of Dallas usually has the right to exercise this authority, known as eminent domain. The Dallas eminent domain lawyers at The Queenan Law Firm explain this power and what you can do to fight against eminent domain in Arlington, Dallas, Houston, and throughout Texas.
Eminent Domain Rules in Dallas, Texas
When Dallas or another government entity takes private land under the authority of eminent domain, it is called “condemnation.” The power of eminent domain is not absolute and has several restrictions:
- The authority is only granted to the government or a private company acting with government authorization.
- The authority can only be exercised to take private land for public benefit or public use.
- The owner of the condemned property must be adequately compensated for the taking.
Dallas Property Owners’ Rights and the Condemnation Process
Dallas landowners are afforded several rights and protections under Texas law and the Constitution of the United States. The procedures and regulations that the City of Dallas must follow to take private land are outlined in Chapter 21 of the Texas Property Code. Additionally, Texas further protects landowners through the Landowner’s Bill of Rights, made up of ten specific provisions enumerating the rights of property owners, including the following:
- Private property can only be seized by the government or a private entity acting with government authorization.
- Private property cannot be seized unless it is for public benefit or public use.
- Property owners must receive reasonable notice of the plans to condemn their property.
- Property owners must receive a good faith proposal to purchase their property before condemnation starts.
- Property owners are allowed to have legal representation throughout the condemnation process, including during the initial negotiation to purchase the property.
- Property owners have the right to a trial to challenge the compensation amount and the legality of the condemnation.
Good Faith Purchase Offers
Dallas must make a good faith offer to purchase your property before beginning the legal condemnation process. After an initial offer is made, Dallas is required to provide the landowner a certified appraisal of the property’s fair market value. Once provided, the city must make a final offer that is higher than the appraised value.
The property owner will have 14 days to either agree to sell the property, reject the offer, or make a counteroffer. The City of Dallas will often have agents who encourage you to take the lowest offer possible. We highly recommend retaining our seasoned eminent domain attorneys to avoid accepting an unfair purchase price. It is important to understand that you are not required to take the price as offered.
If you accept the purchase price, then there is no need for the condemnation process to continue. Dallas will purchase your property through a regular real estate transaction. However, if you reject the offer, Dallas will start the formal condemnation process.
Eminent Domain Petition and Commissioners’ Hearing
Dallas will file the formal condemnation petition in the district court or the county court where the property is located. Included with the filing is a description of the property, the proposed purpose of the condemnation, and certification that the property owner received both a good faith purchase offer.
The court will then appoint a commission of three local property owners to preside over a hearing between the city and the property owner. The commissioners will hear evidence of the property’s value, monetary damages the condemnation would cause, the intended public benefit, and the purpose of the taking to determine a fair compensation value.
A lawyer can help argue for the highest value for your property. Dallas will have representatives arguing in support of the lowest amount possible. We will present evidence of the actual value of your property, the costs incurred by losing it, and the economic benefit to the city to argue for a higher award amount.
After the commissioners hear all of the evidence and arguments, they will issue a finding and set a compensation price that will be filed with the court. Once the compensation amount is set, either party can appeal the case to a trial in front of a judge or jury.
You have a right to challenge the commissioners’ valuation of your property. In addition to challenging the compensation amount, you can also challenge the taking of your property by filing a motion to dismiss the condemnation proceeding. The two most common challenges question whether the entity has legal standing to condemn your property and whether the proposed purpose qualifies as public use. Unlike the special commissioners, the trial judge or jury can consider whether the condemnation was improper.
Call Our Dallas Eminent Domain Lawyer for a Free Case Consultation
The City of Dallas, as a government entity, has the authority to condemn property by exercising eminent domain powers. If the government is threatening to take your private property, our knowledgeable attorneys can fight to help you receive the proper compensation or challenge the basis for the condemnation. Contact the business litigation lawyers at The Queenan Law Firm, P.C. to learn more about our services and how we can help you. Call (817) 774-9627 to schedule a free consultation.