Houston Eminent Domain Litigation Attorney
Eminent domain is the right of the government to take private land for the public benefit. Both the laws of the United States and the State of Texas have rules governing this process. Some private companies acting with government authorization, such as electrical or water providers, also have the power of eminent domain. If the government threatens your land, you need the services of our Houston eminent domain litigation attorney to represent you throughout the complicated process.
The attorneys at The Queenan Law Firm, P.C. have years of experience representing Houston landowners in condemnation and eminent domain litigation. Contact us to learn more about our services and how we can help you. Call (817) 476-1797 to schedule a free consultation.
Eminent Domain and Property Owners’ Rights in Houston, TX
Chapter 21 of the Texas Property Code outlines the procedures the government is required to follow to condemn private land. More specifically, Texas law lists three elements necessary for the exercise of eminent domain powers to be legal:
- Only the government or an authorized private entity has the right to condemn private property.
- The purpose for condemnation of private property must be for public benefit or public use.
- The government or an authorized private entity must adequately compensate the owner of the property.
Additionally, the State of Texas also established the Landowner’s Bill of Rights, containing ten specific provisions to protect property owners:
- The property owner is entitled to adequate compensation.
- The purpose of condemnation must benefit the public or be for public use.
- Only the government or an authorized entity can condemn your land.
- The property owner is entitled to notice before condemnation begins.
- The property owner is entitled to a certified appraisal of the property’s value.
- The property owner is entitled to a bona fide purchase offer before condemnation begins.
- The property owner is entitled to hire a private appraiser.
- The property owner is entitled to hire a lawyer.
- The property owner is entitled to a hearing if not satisfied with the purchase offer.
- The property owner is entitled to a trial to challenge the compensation award or the appropriateness of the condemnation.
The Condemnation Process in Houston
It is crucial to have our Houston eminent domain attorney help through each of the stages of this process: the pre-condemnation purchase negotiations, the pre-trial commissioners’ hearing, and the actual litigation. Our experienced lawyers have the depth of skill and resources to defend your interests against the condemning entity and to preserve the value of your property.
Pre-Condemnation Purchase Negotiation
Before the government initiates eminent domain proceedings, they must make a good faith offer to buy the land. The written proposal requires a certified appraisal followed by a final offer. The property owner has 14 days to either accept or reject the purchase price. Without the assistance of a knowledgeable Houston eminent domain attorney, you might agree to an offer for much less than the fair market value of the property. Alternatively, you might agree to sell the property to an entity that lacks the authority to condemn your land.
If you refuse to sell your property for the amount offered, then the government will begin the condemnation process.
Pre-trial Special Commissioner’s Hearing
Once the condemnation process begins, the court will appoint three local landowners as commissioners. The special commissions will hear and consider evidence presented to establish the appropriate compensation for the condemned property. The government will present arguments supporting the lowest amount possible.
Our seasoned attorneys will have your property independently appraised, thoroughly evaluate the value of the public benefit, and calculate the loss in value of any surrounding property to establish a fair, reasonable price. Once the commissioners have heard all of the evidence and arguments, they will file a compensation award with the court ordering the government to pay you.
Condemnation Litigation in Houston
You have a right to appeal the commissioners’ determination of compensation. In addition to the compensation, you can challenge whether the taking of your property was proper in the first place.
The most common area of dispute is the government’s proposed purpose. For the exercise of eminent domain to be legal, the condemned land must be used for the public. Many uses are difficult to challenge, such as expanding highways, building hospitals, or running utility lines. However, if the benefit is solely for the economic well-being of a particular person or business, the purpose might not fit the definition of public use. Our attorneys will evaluate the purposed plan and challenge the condemnation of your property if we believe there is no public benefit.
Additionally, you can challenge the condemnation if you can prove that taking your land is not necessary to achieve the stated purpose. Furthermore, the taking could be excessive, condemning more property than required. Our knowledgeable attorneys will thoroughly review the condemned property in relation to the proposed plan.
Call Our Houston Eminent Domain Litigation Attorney for a Free Consultation
The government has a right to condemn private property for the benefit of the public. However, this authority is not absolute, and the government must adhere to many legal requirements. Landowners have rights provided by both the United States Constitution and Texas law. Our Houston eminent domain litigation attorneys have experience assisting Houston residents through all the stages of the condemnation process. The Queenan Law Firm, P.C. can help you preserve the fair market value of your land or challenge an improper exercise of eminent domain. Call (817) 476-1797 to schedule a free consultation.