Can You Fight an Eminent Domain Action in Texas?
Both the United States and Texas law authorizes the government to take your land through the authority of eminent domain. Challenging the taking, or condemnation, of your property under this authority is difficult, but possible.
To acquire your land under eminent domain, the government must meet several requirements. First, only the government or a private entity acting with government authority has the right to condemn your property. Next, the government’s purpose must be public use. Finally, the government must adequately compensate you for your land.
While you have a right to object to the compensation awarded, it is not usually a basis to stop the condemnation. The first two requirements, legal standing and purpose, provide difficult avenues for challenging the government’s action. Our Arlington, TX eminent domain litigation attorneys at The Queenan Law Firm, P.C. discuss.
Who Has the Right to Exercise Eminent Domain in Texas?
Only the government or a private entity with government authority has the right to exercise eminent domain. All other parties or companies are prohibited from forcing the sale or taking of your private property.
Before filing a condemnation lawsuit, the government must present you with a bona fide written offer to purchase your property. A certified appraisal of the land’s value should follow, along with a final proposal that is higher than the appraised value of your property. The government will initiate formal condemnation proceedings if an agreement cannot be reached.
Often a private company will act fraudulently, under the color of government authorization, and present an offer with the underlying threat of condemnation to acquire your property. Retaining the services of our experienced Texas eminent domain attorneys could help you avoid selling your property when you were not required to do so. Additionally, if the private company did have the authority to condemn your property, we would work to ensure you received your just compensation.
Public Purpose and Use in Texas
The government can only exercise eminent domain authority for a public benefit. If the taking of your property is not a public necessity or if the foundation for the taking is arbitrary and capricious, you could challenge the condemnation.
The public use or purpose must be necessary, requiring the condemnation of your property to achieve that purpose. Defining public use is difficult as society changes, transportation patterns shift, energy needs rise, and communities develop. Some common public purposes include highways, hospitals, expanding roadways, public parks, and gas and water pipelines.
The U.S. Supreme Court expanded the definition of public use in the exercise of eminent domain in their ruling in Kelo v. New London. This controversial decision granted the government the authority to condemn private property for economic development. Under this ruling, condemnation has been allowed for large commercial projects, including sports stadiums and shopping centers. Due to the broad interpretation of economic development, private companies have sought to use the right for private projects.
In response to the advocacy of private property rights groups, the Texas Legislature has passed laws limiting the use of eminent domain for private, commercial use, including developing the Landowner’s Bill of Rights.
If the purpose appears solely economical and for the benefit of private parties, such as a shopping mall in an affluent community, then there could be a legal basis to challenge the purpose. Even with the broad interpretation of public use, you can challenge the condemnation of your property if you believe there is no benefit for the public.
You may also challenge a condemnation proceeding if you believe that your property is not necessary for the project. Furthermore, the government’s exercise of eminent domain could be excessive, taking more of your land than is required. Our eminent domain litigation attorneys have the depth of knowledge and skill to thoroughly evaluate the proposed use of your land.
Fighting a Condemnation Action in Texas
When challenging condemnation of your property, you will petition the court for injunctive relief and monetary damages. However, if you lose and the government meets its burden, you could be responsible for court costs if the grounds for your objection were unfounded.
When a taking is deemed excessive, or the government has condemned more property than was necessary, the monetary damage awarded would reflect the diminished value of the remaining land. Additionally, damages could be awarded if the government’s activity adversely affected and devalued your remaining land.
Damages are awarded from the date of the alleged taking, including interest that will accrue as of that date. Often, especially in cases involving an excessive taking, objections are not filed until years after the initial ruling. Over time, the government or private entity could engage in conduct or activity that exceeds the scope of the original purpose. If this activity further decreases the value of your remaining property or hinders the enjoyment of your property, monetary damages could be available.
Call Our Eminent Domain and Real Estate Attorney in Texas
Challenging the government’s condemnation of your land is difficult. Our knowledgeable Arlington, TX business litigation attorneys have the experience and depth of skill to provide you an aggressive defense if the taking is improper. If you are facing the condemnation of your property, or have any questions regarding eminent domain, contact The Queenan Law Firm, P.C. to learn more about our services and how we can help you. Call (817) 476-1797 to schedule a free consultation.