What Rights Does a Property Owner Have in Eminent Domain in Texas?
Eminent domain laws in Texas allow the government or authorized private entities to take or “condemn” private property for the benefit of public use. However, the United States Constitution’s Fifth Amendment prohibits a government entity from taking private property without adequate compensation and other processes. Additionally, Texas provides property owners further protections through the Landowner’s Bill of Rights. The Queenan Law Firm’s Arlington, TX eminent domain litigation attorney explains some of these rights and how you can protect yourself from eminent domain seizures in Texas.
Condemnation and Eminent Domain Laws in Texas
Chapter 21 of the Texas Property Code details the condemnation process where property is seized through eminent domain. Private property can be taken in Texas for a variety of purposes that constitute “public use,” including building infrastructure, expanding highways, creating utility projects, constructing oil and gas pipelines, and building largescale commercial projects that benefit the general public.
The government can condemn a landowner’s entire property or carve out a section or easement. No matter the size of the condemned parcel, a Texas property owner has a right to just compensation.
The Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights in Eminent Domain Cases
The State of Texas has a Landowner’s Bill of Rights that enumerates the rights of property owners facing condemnation:
- You are entitled to adequate compensation for property taken for the public benefit.
- Private property can only be taken for a public use.
- Only the government or an authorized entity can exercise eminent domain.
- You must be notified that an entity wants to take your property.
- You are entitled to a written, certified appraisal.
- The entity trying to possess your property has to first make a fair offer, in writing, to buy it from you.
- You can hire an appraiser to assist with the valuation and condemnation process.
- You can hire an eminent domain litigation attorney to represent you throughout the condemnation process, including the initial negotiation.
- You are entitled to a hearing in front of three court-appointed commissioners before your property is seized. The special commissioners will determine the adequate purchase price for your property. The commissioners might also determine that you are entitled additional payment for any reduction in value to your remaining property.
- If you are unsatisfied with the commissioners’ determination, or if you believe the condemnation is improper, you have the right to a trial by judge or jury. Furthermore, if you are unsatisfied with the trial court’s decision, you have the right to file an appeal.
The Right of Adequate Compensation for Land Seizure in Texas
If your land is condemned, you are entitled to adequate compensation. Before beginning the eminent domain process, the government is required to make a good faith offer to purchase your property. In addition to the initial proposal, an appraisal must be provided, followed by a final offer that is higher than the appraised value of your property.
You do not have to accept the offer. If you refuse the government’s purchase price, a hearing will be scheduled. The court will appoint three local landowners as special commissioners to hear evidence related to the value of your land. After evaluating the provided evidence and any arguments, the commissioners will determine the compensation award.
If the decision is unfavorable, you have the right to appeal their determination by a trial with a judge or a jury.
Getting Condemnation Actions Dismissed in Texas Eminent Domain Cases
You have the right to challenge the government or the authorized entity’s authority to condemn your property. With the assistance of our experienced Texas eminent domain litigation attorney, you would file a motion to dismiss the eminent domain proceedings. The motion to dismiss would have to allege viable grounds to challenge the condemnation. For example, that the condemning entity did not have the right to condemn or the provided purpose does not meet the standard of public use. If you are successful, the court might award reasonable attorney’s fees, appraiser’s fees, and other reasonable expenses incurred in preparing your case.
Right to Relocation Costs in Texas Eminent Domain Cases
If you are displaced from your home or place of business, you might be entitled to reimbursement for reasonable expenses incurred from moving personal property to another location. Texas law limits the total amount of available reallocation costs to the market value of the property transferred. Additionally, the moving costs are limited by the expense of moving 50 miles.
Right to Reclamation in Texas Eminent Domain Cases
Under certain circumstances, you have the right to repurchase condemned property for the price they paid you. If a project is canceled, you would have the right to repurchase your land. Additionally, if there has been no progress or work done on your land within ten years, the right to reclamation triggers. Similarly, if your property becomes unnecessary within the same time frame, you can buy back your property.
To Understand Your Property Rights in Relations to Eminent Domain and Condemnation in Texas, Call our Experienced Attorney
As a landowner in Texas, you are afforded several rights and protections as a matter of law and policy. While it is difficult to successfully challenge the government or an authorized entity exercising eminent domain authority, the condemning entity must adhere to specific rules and regulations. Our knowledgeable Arlington, TX business litigation attorneys can ensure all of your enumerated rights are protected. Call The Queenan Law Firm, P.C. to learn more about our services and how we can help you. Call (817) 774-9627 to schedule a free consultation.