Eminent domain refers to the government’s right to take land for public use. If you are a property owner in Texas, you may be contacted by an agency and offered a settlement in exchange for your land.
The condemnation process can be very stressful for Texas landowners. It is important to understand your rights during an eminent domain case and consult with an attorney who can advocate for your interests during each stage of litigation.
The Constitutional Limitations of Eminent Domain
The United States Constitution affords the government the right to take land for public use. However, there are two constitutional limitations to eminent domain.
- First, the government must provide just compensation to the property owner for the land that it intends to condemn. In many cases, the government will send someone to appraise the property and make an offer.
- Second, the government must take the land for a valid public use. Public uses may include schools, public buildings, highways, airports, dams, and other forms of infrastructure.
If the government does not provide a fair offer for your property, you have the right to negotiate for a higher settlement and hire a third-party appraiser to survey your property. You can also challenge the condemnation if you do not believe that the agency is taking your land for a valid public use.
Your Rights Under the Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights
In addition to constitutional protections, the state of Texas has created the Landowner’s Bill of Rights, which applies to any eminent domain action taken by the government. Under this document, you are afforded the following protections:
- You have the right to receive adequate compensation for condemnation.
- The government can only take your property for public use.
- Only a government agency or an authorized private entity may take your property.
- The entity that plans to take your property must provide notification.
- The condemning entity must provide a written appraisal from a certified appraiser that explains the adequate compensation that you are owed.
- The condemning entity must make a bona fide offer to buy your property before filing a condemnation lawsuit against you.
- You have the right to hire an appraiser to determine the value of your property and any other professional to support you during the process.
- You have the right to hire an eminent domain attorney who can represent you in legal proceedings and negotiations.
- You have the right to a hearing in front of a panel of special commissioners before your property is condemned.
- You have the right to a trial by a judge or a jury if you are unsatisfied with the compensation that you received or if you question the legality of the condemnation.
Protect Your Rights with the Help of a Texas Eminent Domain Attorney
If you are facing condemnation, you need as much support as possible. A Texas eminent domain attorney has the skills and experience that you need to navigate the complex condemnation process and will fight to protect your rights during each stage of the process.
As soon as possible after receiving notice of the condemnation, contact a lawyer to discuss your case. Your attorney will evaluate your situation and craft a plan for your next steps.