When a local, state, or federal government takes private property for public use, it must compensate the owner. Both the Federal and the Texas Constitutions give the power to take private property for public use but both also require that the government pay “just compensation” to the owner. This process of taking private property for public use with just compensation is known as eminent domain or condemnation. When the government notifies you that it intends to take some or all of your property by condemnation, it is best to have a well-versed attorney standing by your side.
How Does Eminent Domain Work?
The government can take private property for public use under eminent domain laws. As mentioned, condemnation and eminent domain are the terms that describe the process of the government taking private property. Landowners can learn about the procedure and their rights under Texas condemnation laws by consulting an eminent domain attorney. An eminent domain or condemnation lawyer can help you whether the property that the government intends to take is commercial, residential, or vacant. A skilled attorney can assist in obtaining just compensation. The condemnation procedure begins after the government (or a firm granted authorization by the government) decides to exercise eminent domain rights on private property. Depending on how the condemnation proceeds, there are three basic steps to the process:
- The original offer and the subsequent negotiations. The private property that is to be taken must be appraised, and the government must offer the property owner a dollar amount to buy the property. The landowner also has the right to a copy of any appraisals that the government has gotten in relation to your property. The transaction is concluded if the landowner accepts the offer made for their property, and the government can move forward. If not, and discussions have failed, the case will be heard by a special panel of commissioners.
- Commissioners’ hearing. If the landowner does not accept the government’s offer, the government will file a lawsuit where the property is located. Specially appointed commissioners will evaluate the government’s taking and make an award based on the information that the government and the landowner supply to them. An eminent domain lawyer not only knows what evidence to present to the special commissioners to win the best dollar award for the property that the government takes but also how to present that evidence. The government has the right to take control of the property after it deposits in the court’s bank account the amount that the special commissioners decided. A skilled Texas eminent domain attorney can help the landowner meet all of the key deadlines that govern all the stages of condemnation cases, thus preserving the landowner’s ability to receive the full compensation for the property that the government has taken.
- Trial. If the landowner is not satisfied with the dollar amount that the special commissioner’s award, then the landowner can proceed to a real court trial, including a jury of citizens if the landowner wants. Like the commissioners’ hearing stage, there are laws, deadlines, and procedures that govern a condemnation trial. The landowner’s demand to reevaluate the commissioners’ award must be filed in a certain way within a particular time.
It surprises most people that the government can allow certain private businesses to use the government’s power of eminent domain, as long as the use is for a public purpose. Utility companies and pipelines are probably the two most frequent examples. If for instance, a pipeline company wants to build a new pipeline to carry gas from one place to another in order to provide natural gas to customers—a public use—the government might allow the pipeline to condemn the land that it needs for the pipeline right of way. When that happens, the general condemnation rules apply. To be effective in receiving the full compensation that is his right, the landowner must comply with all the same laws, deadlines, and rules that he would face in a normal government condemnation. That is why an eminent domain lawyer could greatly benefit the landowner regardless of whether the government or a business is taking the land.
Eminent Domain Lawyer Houston, TX
Is an entity with eminent domain authority threatening to take your property? Many landowners are unclear about what to do after receiving notice that their property will be taken for a public use project. Texas landowners in this circumstance should consider a Texas eminent domain attorney as soon as possible. Negotiating with the condemning authority without the assistance of a Texas eminent domain lawyer runs the risk of being underpaid. This, though, could be a major blunder. A condemnation lawyer can safeguard your rights if, like most people, you are unfamiliar with the state’s eminent domain rules. When it comes to taking property from private owners and businesses in Texas, the government and other institutions with eminent domain power employ specialists. They employ appraisers, right-of-way agents, and their own condemnation lawyers. A landowner facing condemnation would be well-advised to rely on an experienced condemnation lawyer to protect the right to full, just compensation.