Important Considerations Under Texas Condemnation Law
Under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the government shall not take private property for the public use without just compensation. As a practical matter, it can and does happen.
Important Property Owner's Rights
The most important thing to know during a condemnation process is that you have rights to contest a government taking. You also have the right to obtain an independent appraisal and should at least consult an attorney who is well versed in condemnation law.
Here are some of the basic questions about condemnation law that we typically encounter:
What amount of money am I entitled to, and can I contest the original offer given by the government?
The State government or private Condemnor exercising the power of Eminent Domain is by law required to pay you fair market value for property taken through a condemnation proceeding. If the taking affects your adjacent land, you may also receive money to compensate you for damages to that property. Not all forms of damage are compensable. Condemnation by the Federal Government employs a different formula.
A property owner that receives an inadequate offer is faced with an adversarial condemnation proceeding against a well-trained team. In practice, an owner must act quickly to obtain the necessary information to evaluate the offer or make their own valuation argument. Our lawyers are available to personally discuss how to determine whether the offer is reasonable.
When should I contact a condemnation attorney?
You are welcome to call us directly at any time to discuss your concerns. If you have not done so before, you should certainly contact an attorney immediately after you get notice of a condemnation proceeding. Property owners have limited periods to evaluate an offer and respond. Failing to contact an Eminent Domain lawyer may jeopardize your right to full and fair compensation.
You have a right a right to contest a Condemnor's offer
Although the Texas Property Code requires a Condemnor to make a good-faith offer, before filing any condemnation action in State Court, recent Appellate cases have eroded that requirement. There is no longer any meaningful penalty to a Condemnor who fails to negotiate in good faith. However, owners have a Constitutional right to have the question of compensation determined by Special Commissioners and/or judge and jury.
Chapter 21 of the Texas Property Code sets out the basics of procedure in a statutory condemnation action in State Court, and the owner’s burden. Some owners have successfully represented themselves before the Special Commissioners. Care should be taken to preserve the right of appeal by the deadline, which is typically the first Monday after 20 days from the date that the Award of the Special Commissioners' is filed with the Court.
The Condemnor may have an advantage during a condemnation proceeding. It has had months to prepare and professional staff that have familiarity with the processes. Many owners feel that they need someone with that sort of knowledge on their side.