Eminent Domain

As the Texas population continues to grow, its need for basic infrastructure — highways, roads, rail lines, electric transmission lines, gas pipelines, water pipelines, and other public projects — will continue to grow. While some of this growth may be accommodated by updating existing infrastructure, new projects will be needed. If you own commercial, residential, industrial, or rural property, there is an increasing chance your property might be condemned.

Eminent domain is the power of the state or federal government and private companies acting under government authority to condemn and force the sale of private property necessary for public use. This process is often called “condemnation,” and it can be a difficult experience for those who have their property taken away.

However, eminent domain does serve an important public purpose. The government and private companies must follow very specific rules when exercising their condemnation powers, and they are often limited in how they can use the condemned property. If you are affected by eminent domain, it is important to understand your rights and what you can do to protect your interests.

Eminent Domain Regulation

Chapter 21 of the Texas Property Code sets out the rules for eminent domain takings by the government and private entities authorized to exercise condemnation powers. The first step in any condemnation action is determining who will exercise their power of eminent domain – the government or a private company.

The property code sets out specific government condemnation rules, requirements, and procedures for:

Types Of Condemnation Takings

Not all condemnation takings are equal. The government and private entities can condemn property for different types of uses, including:

  • Public use – this includes traditional public projects such as roads or schools.
  • Private use with a public purpose may include constructing electric transmission lines or gas pipelines.
  • Eminent domain can also be used for partially public and partially private uses, such as a public park with a privately owned restaurant or retail space.

Statutory Takings

Statutory Takings are the most common type of government taking where the government takes property for a specific public use authorized by statute. Examples include condemnation for new highways and roadways, public utilities, or public schools.

Condemnation for public use does not include condemnation for economic development purposes, such as creating new residential or commercial developments. While there are certain instances where an economic development taking may be allowed by statute, it is generally unconstitutional for government entities to condemn property solely for private profit or enhancement of tax revenues.

Private Condemnation Takings

Private companies must also comply with eminent domain statutes when exercising their condemnation powers. These takings may occur if a private company is authorized by statute to condemn property for public use, such as with electric transmission lines or gas pipelines.

Just Compensation

Regardless of who condemns your property, you are entitled to compensation for its taking. Just compensation includes not only the fair market value of the property but also damages for severance (loss in value to remaining property), relocation expenses, and lost business or loss of access to the property.

Protect Your Rights

If your property is subject to condemnation, it is important to understand your rights and protect them throughout the process. This can include negotiating a fair offer before filing, participating in hearings and assessing damages, consulting with experts, and appealing an unfair decision. At OAG, we have the experience and skills necessary to protect your interests throughout the eminent domain process. Contact us today for a consultation!

Eminent Domain In Texas Q & A:

The short answer is Yes. However, while the United States and Texas Constitutions provide for a government’s right to take land, there are specific requirements that must be met.

While Texas land owners have every right to negotiate with a authorities without the help of an experienced team, it is not recommended. A group focused on law pertaining to eminent domain will know how best protect your interests during negotiations which could result in less than optimal compensation for what you are offering up front

The government has the right to take private property for public use. This includes utility companies, counties and municipal governments amongst others; they can exercise “eminent domain” (the formal name) if it’s in the public interest or need. This means there are some limits on when this law applies! 

When the state of Texas takes your property through eminent domain, they must have a purpose for taking it. The most common reasons are transportation projects like highways and bridges; water/waste water construction such as dams or treatment plants (which also includes electricity generation); utility work that maintains power supply, and other similar projects.

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