Can You Refuse Eminent Domain in Texas?
Through both Texas and the United States law, the government is granted the power to take private property to benefit the public good. This power is called eminent domain. The exercise of this power is known as condemnation. While you are unable to refuse the condemnation of your land you have the right to legally challenge the taking. Stopping the condemnation process requires proving the proposed entity does not have the authority to exercise eminent domain or the taking does not meet the requirements for public use or necessity.
Our Arlington, TX eminent domain litigation attorneys discuss how landowners may be able to challenge the condemnation process in Texas.
Eminent Domain and the Condemnation Process in Texas
Eminent domain is a power exercised by the government to purchase private property for the benefit of the public. This includes condemnation of private lands for new construction projects or to expand the existing infrastructure, including public roads, highways, schools, airports, or pipelines for gas or oil.
Under Texas law, to exercise the power of eminent domain, the actor must be the government or an authorized entity, the purpose for taking the private property must be public use, and the property owner must be appropriately compensated for the land taken.
Texas’ Landowner’s Bill of Rights
The condemnation process must follow a specific process to take your land, defined in Chapter 21 of the Texas Property Code. Furthermore, the State of Texas provides property owners with additional legal protections under the Landowner’s Bill of Rights, including:
- The landowner is entitled to adequate compensation.
- The purpose must benefit the public.
- Only the government or an authorized entity can take your land.
- The landowner is entitled to proper notification before the condemnation process begins.
- The landowner is entitled to a certified appraisal.
- Before legal condemnation proceedings can begin, a good-faith purchase offer is required.
- The landowner is entitled to hire a separate appraiser.
- The landowner is entitled to legal representation during the entire process.
- The landowner is entitled to a hearing before three court-appointed commissioners not satisfied with the good faith offer.
- The landowner is entitled to a trial by a judge or jury if dissatisfied with the commissioners’ determination. Additionally, the landowner is entitled to challenge the condemnation.
Before any court proceeding or hearing, the government or authorized agency must make a good faith offer, in writing, along with a certified appraisal of the property value. Often, condemning agencies employ professional agents to obtain the property at a below market value price. You are not required to accept their offer. If an agreement is unable to be reached, then the government will have to initiate condemnation proceedings to take your property.
Sometimes, when a property owner refuses to accept a deal, the condemning agency may not follow through with the required procedures. The party might have potentially lacked the proper authorization to exercise the power of eminent domain or the purpose might not constitute public use.
Before entering into formal negotiations regarding the sale of your property, you should retain our experienced eminent domain attorney. With our depth of knowledge and skill, we will work to ensure that the party making the offer has the legal authority to condemn your property. Additionally, if they have legal authority, we will work to negotiate the best possible price for your land.
Special Commissioner’s Hearing
If an agreement cannot be reached, three court-appointed commissioners will determine the appropriate compensation for your property. You are entitled to have legal representation during the process. Our Texas eminent domain attorney can help establish the fair market value of your property.
Either party is entitled to object to the commissioners’ findings. If an objection is filed, it will be appealed to trial court, moving forward in the same manner as other civil lawsuits. Property owners have the right to a jury trial for condemnation issues under Texas law.
Challenging the Exercise of Eminent Domain and Condemnation in Texas
Challenges to the exercise of eminent domain authority are difficult. The most common question in condemnation cases is whether the compensation is adequate. While this is an important issue for the property owner, it does not provide a legal basis for preventing condemnation.
The first thing to establish in a condemnation case is whether the condemning agency has the right of eminent domain. In Texas, the condemning entity must be the government or a private entity acting with government authorization. If the entity attempting to force you to sell your property is neither, they do not have the authority to exercise eminent domain.
In order to exercise eminent domain authority, the condemned property must be purchased for public purpose or use. Another basis for challenging eminent domain is that the taking of your property is not a public necessity or that the foundation of the taking is arbitrary and capricious.
Some appropriate purposes for the exercise of eminent domain would be purchasing your land alongside a highway to construct a new entrance ramp. An example of a private entity authorized by the government would be an MLB team purchasing land for a new ballpark. However, a private company purchasing private property to build a new shopping center might not constitute a valid public use. A property owner requires the representation of a skilled Texas eminent domain attorney to analyze the intended purpose.
Call Our Texas Eminent Domain Attorney to See if You Have a Valid Challenge to Condemnation
Challenging the exercise of eminent domain is difficult, and a landowner needs the benefit of an experienced and knowledgeable Texas condemnation attorney. If your property is being threatened by the exercise of eminent domain by the government or an authorized entity, contact a business litigation attorney at 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.