Eminent domain allows the government or a private company with government authorization to take possession of private land for the benefit of the general public. The exercise of this power, granted by both the laws of the United States and Texas, is known as condemnation. Refusing to allow the government to exercise this power is not usually an option. However, there are valid legal grounds to challenge the condemnation of your property. The Arlington, TX eminent domain lawyers at The Queenan Law Firm explain.
Eminent Domain in Arlington, TX
To legally exercise eminent domain authority in Texas, the government must comply with several requirements to be statutorily and constitutionally valid. First, the only entity with the power to condemn private property is the government or a private company with government authorization. Next, the proposed purpose for taking the land must be to benefit the general public or for public use. Finally, adequate compensation must be paid to the property owner.
In Arlington, the condemnation process is outlined in Chapter 21 of the Texas Property Code. Arlington residents also enjoy additional protections through the Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights, including the following:
- Only government agencies or entities with government authorization can condemn your property.
- You must be notified before any condemnation processes begins.
- The condemning entity must make a good faith attempt to purchase your property before filing a condemnation petition.
- You are entitled to legal counsel during all phases of the condemnation process, including purchase negotiations, hearings, trials, and appeals.
- If you believe the compensation awarded was inadequate or the condemnation was improper, you have a right to a trial by a judge or jury.
How Can You Fight Eminent Domain in Arlington, TX?
While you are unable to outright refuse the government’s right to condemn your property, you can legally challenge the taking of your land. The three typical ways to challenge condemnation are to challenge the compensation offered, the authority of the condemning entity, and the purpose of the taking.
To successfully defend your property from being condemned, you will need to establish that the condemning entity lacked the authority to act or that the purpose proposed did not benefit the general public. While objecting to the amount of compensation is most common, it is usually not grounds to halt the taking of your land because the purchase price will simply be changed to adequately compensate you.
Who Has the Authority to Condemn Private Property in Arlington, TX?
According to both the laws of the United States and Texas, the only entity with authority to exercise eminent domain is the government. A private entity acting under government authority can also use the government’s eminent domain power, such as a utilities company. All other companies or individuals are prohibited from using eminent domain over your property. If the company attempting to purchase your property is not the government or does not have government authorization, then they cannot take your land through eminent domain and condemnation.
Challenging “Public Uses” in Arlington Eminent Domain Cases
One of the requirements to exercise eminent domain is that the condemned property must be used to benefit the public or for public use. If the property will not benefit the public or the taking is excessive, arbitrary, or capricious, the condemnation could be improper. Generally, as “public use” is difficult to define, courts will have to analyze the specific facts of your case to determine if the proposed purpose benefits the public.
As changes in transportation and energy needs emerge, the standard definition of public use also changes. In Kelo v. New London (2005), the U.S. Supreme Court expanded the definition of public use, recognizing the government has the authority to condemn private property for economic development. Condemnation of property is not allowable for large commercial construction projects like building sports stadiums or shopping centers, but it can be used for some other construction purposes. Private companies have sought to use eminent domain under this broad definition of “public use.” However, the Texas Legislature passed laws restricting the use of eminent domain for economic development that can often help landowners keep their property out of the hands of private companies and individuals.
It is hard to challenge some “public uses” because they obviously do benefit the public, such as eminent domain used to build hospitals, highways, and utility/energy lines. However, if the use appears to only benefit one particular entity or individual, then there could be grounds to challenge the taking. Even with the broad interpretation of public use, you can challenge condemnations that do not help the public at large.
You can also challenge condemnations of your land if you can show that your parcel of land is not needed to achieve the project’s stated public purpose. Furthermore, the taking could be excessive if the government condemns more property than required. Our knowledgeable Dallas eminent domain attorneys will thoroughly the facts of your case to determine whether taking your property or any portion of it is absolutely necessary.
Adequate Compensation for Your Property in an Arlington, TX Eminent Domain Case
The most common objection in condemnation proceedings is that the amount of compensation offered or awarded to the landowner is too low.
Before a condemnation action begins, the condemning entity must make a good faith attempt to purchase your property. For the offer to comply with statutory requirements, it must be in writing, must include an appraisal from a certified appraiser, and the final offer must be higher than the appraised value. Unfortunately these offers and appraisals often do not reflect the actual value of the land.
If you refuse the purchase offer, the court will appoint a panel of three commissioners who will evaluate the evidence provided by both parties to determine the compensation is fair. Our Arlington eminent domain attorneys can work to fight to have the compensation reflect the actual value of your land. We can also fight to have the purchase price reflect any potential devaluation of the remaining property.
For help during the initial negotiation process and any subsequent hearing, our firm has the depth of knowledge and resources to get a fair appraisal value of your land and fight to get you that price. Should the commissioners determine an award that is not high enough, we can challenge that valuation at trial.
Call Our Arlington, Texas Eminent Domain Attorney Today
While you are unable to simply refuse Arlington’s exercise of eminent domain over your land, you do have legal rights. Furthermore, Arlington must adhere to several statutory requirements to make the eminent domain action legal. Our Arlington, TX eminent domain attorneys have the experience to represent you if your land is being seized in Arlington. 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.