Can the City of Houston Take Your Land?
The law in Texas allows the government to take property from private citizens and companies when they need it for some important purpose. This kind of practice is somewhat rare, but it is unfortunately legal for the government to take your land in Houston. However, they must follow strict protocols to be able to take your property, and if they do not properly compensate you, the taking could be illegal. The Queenan Law Firm’s Houston eminent domain lawyers explain.
When Can Houston Take Land Through Eminent Domain?
If the government wants to use your property, they need to have a good reason before they can begin using eminent domain to take it from you. If the City of Houston wants to seize your land, they must have a “public purpose” in mind for taking it. Often, this public purpose will be some building or construction project that requires land, or perhaps installation of utility lines or pipes that requires a strip of your land. If they do not have a good public purpose, then they can’t use eminent domain.
The government also has to make an offer on your land first before they can “condemn” the property and take it through eminent domain. If Houston wants your land, they will have to make you an offer just like any other buyer would have to. However, the government tends to aim low with these offers, and most initial offers to buy are far lower than what your land is actually worth.
Along with these steps, there are other procedures that must be followed as well. Once they’ve met these requirements, the City of Houston can file “condemnation” proceedings and begin the process of taking your land through eminent domain. Note that “condemnation” doesn’t necessarily mean that your house is old and falling apart – buildings and property can be condemned even if you are still actively using them.
Can I Stop the City from Taking My Property in Houston?
Unfortunately, eminent domain cases are very hard to stop. In order to end the eminent domain seizure entirely, you usually need to prove that either the entity taking your land has no authorization or that they are taking your land for an unauthorized purpose.
If the City of Houston is not the one doing the taking, but they’ve authorized another company or agency to take the land, then the taking is indeed authorized. You would only be able to challenge the taking authority’s legitimacy if they did not get government approval or there was some misunderstanding with their authorizations.
To challenge the “public use” aspect, you would have to prove that the reason they want the land benefits an individual or a corporation, but not the public at large. There have been cases where governments in other parts of the country have seized land in order to build office buildings – which would seem to benefit only those businesses getting new offices. However, courts like the one in Kelo v. New London (2005) have upheld cases like that by saying that economic development was considered a good enough public purpose. Since most eminent domain seizures are for the construction of roads, utility lines, and other public necessities, the “public use” aspect is not usually in question.
One other challenge you can often put forth will not stop the seizure, but it might limit it. In some cases, the government will try to use eminent domain on more land than they actually need. For instance, to build a utility line across your property, the government might want 10 feet of land on either side of the line, but that could be far more land than they actually need to run a few cables. Challenging an excessive taking might allow you to limit how much land the government seizes.
Fighting Condemnation Cases in Houston with the Help of an Eminent Domain Attorney
To challenge any of the purposes or processes used in your case, it is best to hire an eminent domain lawyer in Texas who can fight to limit the government’s taking, challenge any procedural issues, and work to get you the highest price possible for your land.
If the government tries to take your land without following each and every step to the letter, our attorneys can challenge the case, potentially setting the eminent domain proceedings back over and over again. We can also fight to make sure that you are properly compensated.
If the government tries to take a portion of your property, it is likely that the remaining parcel will lose value. Our lawyers will fight to include these costs in the purchase price for your land, forcing the government to pay for each and every inch of land they take plus the effects of the taking on other parts of your property.
Our Texas eminent domain attorneys are experienced at handling these kinds of cases and will work to protect your property rights under the Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution, and other laws and court rulings that might protect your property. In the end, most eminent domain cases cannot be stopped, but having a lawyer represent you can help stop the government from unfairly taking advantage of you.
Call Our Houston Eminent Domain Lawyers Today for a Free Case Consultation
If the City of Houston or another government entity or authorized company tries to take your land under eminent domain, our lawyers can help protect your rights. Contact The Queenan Law Firm today to schedule a free legal consultation and learn more about what our eminent domain lawyers can do to try to protect your property in the Houston area and throughout Texas. Call us at (817) 476-1797.