Because Texas is a state rich in open space and natural resources, many government agencies approach Texas landowners with condemnation letters to usurp their properties. This action occurs due to the concept of eminent domain, or the government’s right to take private property for public use.
If you are facing condemnation, it is important to know that the government must provide fair compensation if it plans to take your land. To determine the terms of a condemnation agreement and ensure you receive a fair officer, you will need to undergo the condemnation process. Many condemnation cases involve three phases: negotiations, a special hearing, and condemnation lawsuit.
When a government agency decides it wants to use your land for a public purpose, such as building a highway or harvesting natural resources, Texas law requires the condemning agency to notify you that your property is under threat of condemnation.
After notification, you will enter into negotiations with the condemner. Usually, the condemner will order a certified appraisal of your property and provide you with a written bona fide offer letter outlining the compensation the agency plans to provide. If you do not agree with the appraisal or the offer, you can choose to negotiate with the condemner for a higher amount.
Special Commissioners’ Hearing
If your negotiations are unsuccessful, you will attend a Special Commissioners’ hearing overseen by three court-appointed individuals. These Commissioners are usually landowners who reside in the county where your property is located. During your hearing, the Commissioners will review evidence and determine how much compensation the condemning authority should award for your land.
Civil Condemnation Suit
The third and final phase of the condemnation process is a lawsuit appeal. If you do not agree with the decision that the Special Commissioners issued in your case, you can choose to escalate your claim by filing a civil appeal against the condemning authority. During this phase, the court will review the available evidence to determine the fair compensation value of your property, such as appraisal documents and original negotiation letters.
At the conclusion of your lawsuit, the court will decide whether or not the condemning authority’s offer is fair and valid. If the court decides that the compensation is appropriate, you will receive the original settlement amount. If the court finds that the condemning agency offered you an insufficient amount, it will decide how much compensation the authority must award for your land.
Do You Need a Texas Condemnation Attorney?
Facing condemnation can feel daunting, and it can be difficult to uphold and understand your property rights in the face of eminent domain. You need someone who can evaluate your situation, guide you through the litigation process, and provide you with the resources you need to secure a fair condemnation offer.
You have the right to have a Texas condemnation attorney represent you during each phase of the condemnation process. By hiring an attorney to handle your claim, you will have someone who advocates for you and your rights from negotiation to settlement, fighting aggressively for your fair and proper compensation.
Your lawyer will understand the intricacies of Texas eminent domain and can represent your best interests in negotiations, during the Special Commissioners’ hearing, and during civil litigation. As soon as you receive notification of the condemnation, contact your Texas civil litigation attorney to discuss your rights and next steps.