What is Eminent Domain and Condemnation in Texas
Can the government or a company acting for the government take your property? Under some circumstances, the power of eminent domain might allow that to happen. If you’re a landowner, you should understand eminent domain and the condemnation process that’s used to exercise eminent domain in Texas.
Attorney Philip Hundl prepared this video to provide you with a general introduction to eminent domain and condemnation. Of course you should talk to an experienced attorney to understand your rights in condemnation proceedings affecting your property.
Summary of Eminent Domain & Condemnation in Texas
Hi! My name is Philip Hundl. I’m an attorney with Wadler Perches Hundl & Kerlick, here in Wharton County. Our law firm serves Wharton County and surrounding counties in southeast Texas from offices in Wharton and El Campo in Wharton County and our offices in Fulshear and Richmond serving Fort Bend County.
As a Landowner You Have Rights Against Eminent Domain
Today, I’d like to talk about eminent domain and condemnation proceedings. Landowners are oftentimes faced with or approached by companies that are seeking to condemn or take your land. As a landowner, you have rights. And I’d like to go over your rights and the condemnation process today.
In this day and age, we hear a lot about infrastructure. Infrastructure can come in many shapes and sizes and forms, from power lines to pipelines to roadways. And if you’re a landowner and you are confronted with or contacted by one of these companies or their agents about seeking an easement or right of way from you, you will most likely be faced with a condemnation proceeding if an arrangement isn’t worked out.
What is the Power of Eminent Domain
So let’s talk about that. Does a private company have the right to take your property? The answer is maybe if that private company, be it a pipeline company or a power line company, has the authority, governmental authority, to acquire your land for “public use,” I’ll use it in quotations, “public use.”
If it’s been determined that the activity that the private company is seeking to accomplish by taking your property is for public use, then, yes, it’s very possible that they have the right of eminent domain and the authorization to condemn your property. And if they do, then there are definitely some rights as a landowner that you have, and there’s a process that you need to understand.
Is There Authority to Condemn Your Property
First you should determine if the company has the right to condemn or not. Normally the company will present you with an order approving condemnation or a letter approving condemnation from some governmental entity. And if they do, then they have the right to condemn your property.
What is the Condemnation Process in Texas
But they have to follow certain steps in a process that’s set out in the Texas Property Code, Chapter 21. One of which is presenting you with a Landowner’s Bill of Rights. And typically it will be presented to you in this form, in English, and then also in Spanish. And these are two examples of those.
In the condemnation process, typically, in the beginning, the pipeline company will provide you with an appraisal or valuation of your property. The intention there is to give you an idea what they believe your property is worth and probably what they’re willing to pay you for either acquiring your property or an easement or right of to use your property. And if that amount of compensation is agreeable to you, then you may have a deal.
Talk to an Experienced Lawyer to Understand Your Rights in Condemnation
I stress that you shouldn’t enter into an agreement with a company without understanding your legal rights. And you’d get that understanding of your rights by contacting an attorney who is very familiar with the condemnation process. By learning your rights, you’ll understand the implications of that legal document that they’re wanting you to sign, be it a right of way agreement, easement agreement, or a deed that would actually convey your property right to the private company.
Once you understand your legal rights and the condemnation process and are familiar with your landowner’s bill of rights, then you can delve into more of the calculation of damages or what you believe your property is worth and how much the activities on your property will harm your remaining property if the private company is only taking a portion of your land.
So, there definitely needs to be a discussion with your attorney about damages. And those can be monetary or even non-monetary damages or remedies that you’re seeking.
Next, I’m going to pick up with more of the legal process if you cannot reach an agreement with the private company.
Attorney Philip Hundl is a Shareholder in the law firm of Wadler, Perches, Hundl & Kerlick. We have three offices serving clients from all over Texas. Call 800-929-1725 for an appointment at any of our offices in Wharton or El Campo in Wharton County or Richmond or Fulshear in Fort Bend County.