If you’re a Texas landowner, chances are you’ve heard of eminent domain and condemnation. These are both terms used to describe the power of the government to take private property for public use. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, they actually have different meanings.
Eminent domain refers to the inherent power of the government to take private property, while condemnation is the actual act of taking that property. In Texas, the condemnation process usually starts when a governmental entity, such as a city, county, or state agency, decides that it needs to acquire your property for a public project.
Notice Of Condemnation
The first step in the condemnation process is for the governmental entity to send you a notice of its intent to condemn your property. This notice must be sent at least 90 days before the entity files a petition for condemnation in court. The notice must contain information about the proposed project and how it will affect your property and your rights during the condemnation process.
If you receive a notice of condemnation, it’s important to understand your rights and what you can do to protect yourself throughout the process. Read on for everything you need to know about the Texas condemnation process.
The Appraisal Process
After you receive a notice of condemnation, the next step in the process is for the government to have your property appraised by a certified appraiser. This appraisal aims to determine how much just compensation you are entitled to receive for your property. Under Texas law, just compensation is defined as “the value of your property interest on the date of filing of the petition plus any damages sustained by you because of taking.”
In most cases, the government will want to purchase only a portion of your property (for example, if they need an easement for a pipeline). In that case, just compensation will be based on market value—what a willing buyer would pay for your property on the open market—plus any damages caused by taking your property.
For example, let’s say that your property is valued at $100,000 on the open market, but taking your property will result in damage totaling $10,000. In that case, just compensation would be $110,000 ($100,000 plus $10,000).
It’s important to note that while market value is generally used to determine just compensation in cases involving partial takings, there are some exceptions. For instance, under certain circumstances (such as when blighted or substandard properties are being taken), just compensation may be based on what’s known as “special value.” Special value includes things like unique location or size and any other special attribute that gives your property extra value beyond its market value.
In addition to determining just compensation for your property interest, you are entitled to recover damages resulting from taking your property. These damages can include things like moving expenses and losses incurred due to business interruption.
You may recover reasonable moving expenses incurred as a result of moving from your condemned home or business premises. To recover these costs, you will need receipts or other documentation proving how much you spent on moving-related expenses, such as hiring movers or renting storage space.
Business interruption losses:
If you own a business that has been condemned, you may be able to recover lost profits incurred due to having to close down or relocate your business operations. To recover these losses, you’ll need evidence such as tax returns or profit and loss statements documenting how much money you would have earned had it not been for the condemnation.
In some cases (such as when an easement is being taken), you may be able to recover damages resulting from diminished access to your remaining property interest after condemnation occurs. For example, if condemned land lies between your home and a public road, and taking that land reduces public road access to your home, you may be able to recover those diminished access damages. To prove these damages, you’ll need expert testimony from someone who can attest to how much less valuable your remaining land became because of its reduced access.
Negotiation And Settlement
Once your property has been appraised, the government will try to negotiate with you and come to a mutually agreeable price for compensation. In many cases, this negotiation process can be rapid and straightforward. For instance, if the government only needs a small portion of your land (perhaps an easement), they may offer you market value plus any damages caused by taking your property. This can be a simple and fair solution for all parties involved.
However, in some cases, negotiation may prove more challenging. For example, if the government wants to take a substantial portion of your property (such as an entire parcel), they may not be willing to pay what you believe is just compensation. In such cases, a formal condemnation proceeding may be necessary.
The Texas condemnation process can be complex and confusing. But by understanding each step in detail, you can better protect yourself throughout negotiation proceedings with government officials. If you find yourself in a situation where eminent domain affects you or condemnation procedures have begun against you, it’s important to seek assistance from a knowledgeable team familiar with the process. Owners Advocacy Group can help you negotiate and ensure you receive fair market value or more for your property. Contact us to get started today!