Understanding the Pre-Condemnation Acquisition Process
Projects that require eminent domain have snaked their way across Texas. Sometimes, it can feel like a positive development until it jeopardizes your land, your business, and your property value. If your property is being targeted for condemnation, it is crucial to understand the process.
How can the Government Take Privately Owned Land?
The Texas constitution permits the state to acquire land that is going to be used for the greater good of its citizens. What sorts of projects might this entail?
- Oil pipelines
- Gas pipelines
- Wind turbines
- Solar farms
- Water lines
- Energy company projects such as power lines
The Difference Between Condemnation and Eminent Domain
These two terms are often used interchangeably. While they go hand in hand, there are differences.
- Eminent domain is defined as the constitutional right of the government to seize private property for public use. It is not only the government that may have rights to private property. Private bodies sponsoring a project deemed for public use may also exercise the influence that gains them the power of eminent domain.
- Condemnation is the process followed to take a piece of property from a landowner for a public use project. Procedures are outlined for the proper way to acquire the land.
Eminent domain is the right, and condemnation is the process.
Landowner Rights in The Condemnation Process
A landowner is entitled to proper notice and property information when the government or a private entity tries to take their land via eminent domain. The condemnor, whether it’s the government or private entity, has to communicate with the landowner through timely notices that inform them of their intentions throughout the process.
The condemnor must have a written appraisal conducted by a certified appraiser. They must make a monetary offer for the land or property they intend to acquire. This information must be made available to the property owner in a timely manner.
Property owners have the right to decline an offer, and you probably should. Your attorney will advise you. But, typically, the first offer you receive will be a low one, with the hope that if you are not legally represented, you will accept it because you don’t know you have alternatives.
What Happens If the Initial Offer Is Declined by The Property Owner?
If the original offer is not considered fair by the property owner, they have the right to decline. This means the process of condemnation moves forward with the appointing of special commissioners. These commissioners will participate in a hearing to determine the compensation that should be awarded.
If the commissioner’s award decision is rejected by either the landowner or the entity that is attempting to acquire the land, a trial may be the next step. Though, in some cases, once the condemnor has handed over compensation, they can access the landowner’s property and begin their project, even if the courts have not determined that the amount given was fair and sufficient.
Trusted Appraisals Are Crucial
While we do not want to paint the appraisers that work for the government agencies that are trying to take your land with the same brush, they may not have your best interest in mind. And this could lead to them leaning toward their employer when determining the value of the land they wish to acquire. This is why it might be important for your condemnation attorney to move to find an independent appraiser who will assess the true value of your property.
What Options Do Landowners Have?
Property owners usually want to keep their land. It can disrupt their home life, reduce the value of their remaining property, sabotage future projects, and destroy their businesses. When faced with this kind of disruption, some steps can be taken; but they must be taken quickly because the process moves relatively quickly.
Your landowner condemnation lawyer can help you by:
- Challenging that the property will be used for the public good
- Proving that the acquisition of land is for private gain
- Challenging the handling of the purchase
- Asking for a hearing to dispute what the condemnor has offered for compensation
- Taking the case to trial
- Appealing the court’s findings
Dealing with an entity like the Texas government can feel overwhelming. It feels as if the deck is stacked against the individual property owner. We have the experience, wisdom, and astuteness to ensure you are treated fairly. When we represent landowners in condemnation disputes:
- We ensure that the appraised value of the property is accurate.
- We investigate to ensure that the property is being used for the public’s benefit and not for a private entity’s interest.
- We will analyze the offer of compensation and determine its fairness.
- We will determine not only the value of the property, but the cost of relocating people, businesses, ranches, and nonprofit organizations that will be displaced because of the taking.
Your eminent domain attorney will do a thorough investigation and will help you build the case that will best serve your interests, whether that is fighting for you to continue to own your property or fighting for the best monetary compensation if you are forced to part with it.
Help is a Phone Call Away
In Texas, the government often claims land for projects in the name of progress. While the projects may be worthy, if a landowner risks losing their land, having their business jeopardized, or having their property devalued, they may need legal representation. Contact Amarillo condemnation lawyers today to discuss your situation.