What is the Eminent Domain Law in Texas?

Eminent domain law can profoundly impact property owners in Texas. The federal and state governments use this law to legally take land from its rightful owner.

While it might seem like a serious injustice, there are good reasons for using it. This law frees up land for public projects like highway infrastructure and the development of new parks. However, the good intentions of this law are sometimes used to unfairly deprive people of their property. That is where our attorneys can step in and aggressively protect your rights. The eminent domain process is complex, and the entity trying to acquire your property must not only show what the land will be used for but must also pay you a fair amount. We can help fight for a price considered adequate if we cannot stop the sale altogether.

For a free case evaluation with our Dallas eminent domain lawyers, contact The Queenan Law Firm, P.C. at (817) 476-1797.

Understanding Eminent Domain Law in Texas

The government in Texas has the power to take property from private citizens for public use, such as building schools, roads or highways, and other public projects. However, when the government exercises this power, it is required by law to compensate the landowners fairly.

The U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment includes a clause that prohibits taking private property for public use without fair compensation. This means that the federal government can take someone’s land for public purposes, but they must eventually provide compensation for it. However, getting compensation quickly is challenging. Our Texas eminent domain attorneys can help you move the process along, filing with the court if necessary. We can also help if the Texas state government is seeking your property.

The power to acquire land is more limited at the local and state levels in Texas. Like the Fifth Amendment, Art. I, Sec. 17 of the Texas Constitution, provides that property cannot be taken or destroyed for public use without adequately compensating the property owner. The Texas Property Owner’s Bill of Rights further details the protections Texas law affords you. You should receive a copy of this Bill of Rights if any entity is exercising eminent domain against you.

If you are a landowner in Texas, your property could be subject to eminent domain at any time. Our lawyers will help you determine if there are strategies to help keep your property in your possession.

What Allows the Government to Take Property Under Eminent Domain in Texas?

Governments in Texas cannot simply seize your property. They must show several elements to have the legal right to claim it. While we might hope our government agents act with integrity, it is not beyond a state or local municipality to make an offer far lower than the property’s value. Our lawyers can help you challenge the following grounds for exercising eminent domain over your property:

The Authority to Exercise Eminent Domain

In Texas, only government entities or those they authorize can exercise eminent domain. To get authorization, though, a two-thirds vote in both houses of the state legislature is required. The request must explain the property’s intended use, how it is being valued, and how the public will benefit from the property’s new purpose.

Eminent domain rights are usually granted to entities like public utility companies or private pipeline common carriers. In fact, Texas is known for allowing common carriers that own or operate a pipeline for petroleum, carbon dioxide, or other dangerous materials to exercise eminent domain.

Because most common carriers in Texas are private, they can argue that the use of your land is for the public good while furthering their business interests. Before the right to eminent domain is granted, we can determine if the entity trying to take control of your property has the authority to do so. Fortunately, the Comptroller’s Office maintains a database of those who can exercise eminent domain in Texas. If the entity you are dealing with is not on this list, contact our office immediately.

The Property Must Be for Public Use

Defining the term “public use” can be a complex matter. In order to qualify as such, a property must be utilized for the betterment of the public or in support of infrastructure that will benefit the community. This includes using the land for educational institutions, gas and oil pipelines, shopping centers, medical facilities, parks, and countless others.

For instance, a road might need to be widened. If so, your land could be subject to an easement of a few feet, or it could involve the entire property, including any buildings on it. The organization that is using eminent domain must make its intentions and requirements clear so that the court can determine whether or not to allow the property to be condemned. If you find the reasons these entities want to use your property flimsy, we can help fight it.

In theory, property cannot be taken to satisfy the private needs of another. However, the lines between private needs and economic development can be blurry. According to the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2005 case Kilo v. New London, property can be acquired through eminent domain even if the public uses it for economic benefits. If you suspect that your property is being sold for economic development, our attorneys can help determine if the uses meet the standard.

You Must Be Adequately Compensated

Defining “adequate” compensation depends on various factors. In many cases, property owners disagree with the government about what constitutes adequate compensation. It is common for the government to make a low initial offer with the hope that the owner will be pressured into accepting it. If you have been fending off the government’s attempts to take your property, you might give in and accept an unfair offer. We can help make sure the offer reflects the fair market value of your land.

With our firm’s help, we can have an independent appraiser assess your property and determine if your land is being undervalued. This will help raise the selling price.

We will also do everything in our power to get you your payment as quickly as the Texas bureaucracy will allow. You will also benefit from not being harassed by arbitrary deadlines. Some entities create these deadlines to pressure you. Fortunately, we can make sure they work with you on a fair timeline.

How Can an Eminent Domain Attorney Help My Case in Texas?

An eminent domain offer often includes complicated or misleading language. Without our attorney’s guidance, you could receive less compensation than your property’s value. We have the experience to review these offers to ensure they have the authority to make the agreement and seek independent appraisals so you get the full value for your land.

If we cannot agree on a reasonable amount for your property during negotiations, our team can take the dispute to a special commission. This third-party commission will decide what are fair terms for the value of your land. This board is typically made up of three local landowners appointed by a judge. However, they must live in the county where the repossession is taking place. If an agreement still cannot be reached, our attorneys can help fight your case at trial in front of a judge or jury.

Our Texas Eminent Domain Attorneys Can Help Protect Your Property

Call The Queenan Law Firm, P.C. today at (817) 476-1797 for a free case review with our Arlington eminent domain attorneys.