Texas is a state rich in natural resources and vast expanses of land. The legal concept of eminent domain is particularly important for Texas landowners, since this right allows the government to seize private land for public use. Today, more and more government agencies and private companies are seeking to seize property—and understanding eminent domain rights can help a landowner understand how to approach this situation.
Defining Eminent Domain and Condemnation
Eminent domain refers to the government’s inherent right to seize land within the United States borders for a legitimate public use. The government may seize land to access natural resources, build infrastructure, or provide for the benefit of the public. The process of taking land under eminent domain is known as condemnation, and the government entity is the condemning authority.
Eminent domain laws require the government to provide just compensation for the land they take, and only certain authorities may use eminent domain to take private property. Government agencies and companies working under the authority of the government, such as utility companies or transportation authorities, can seize land for public use.
Texas Eminent Domain Laws
The concept of eminent domain comes from the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which states that no one, including the government, can take private property for public use without paying the landowner just compensation. The Supreme Court ruled that the federal government has the absolute power to seize private and public lands in the 1946 case U.S. v. Carmack.
The State of Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights outlines additional rights landowners have in eminent domain situations. If a government agency or private company with a government contract seeks to seize land from a Texas landowner, the state requires that the authorities pay fair and just compensation and utilize the land for public use or benefit.
After a government entity decides to seize property, they must provide the landowner with an appraisal from a certified appraiser detailing the just compensation he or she may receive for the land. If the landowner does not accept the offer, the government may file a lawsuit to condemn the property. If the landowner believes that the government is not providing him or her with a just offer, he or she may file a claim against the entity as well.
Contact a Texas Eminent Domain Lawyer
The process of condemnation doesn’t always result in a favorable outcome for the landowner. It is not in the government’s best interest to pay maximum compensation for a piece of property. Appraisals from condemning authorities can be well under the actual market value of the property, and a landowner may accidentally accept a lower offer than they deserve.
In addition, a government entity may abuse their eminent domain power to take land for uses other than the public good. While it can be difficult to fight eminent domain in most cases, the government can only seize land for public necessity or use — and if they abuse this power, landowners deserve to keep their properties.
Hiring a eminent domain lawyer in Texas is necessary to protect your rights in these situations. Your lawyer can commission a third-party appraisal of your property to ensure you receive an adequate compensation offer, as well as help fight against an unjust exercise of eminent domain. If the government attempts to seize your property, contact your lawyer as soon as possible.