As you may have read in an earlier blog, Texas landowners who live in the path of the proposed Keystone Pipeline route may be dealing with the threat of eminent domain to force them into a contract. If the landowner doesn’t come to an agreement with the entity intent on “taking” their land, then they might be put in the position of hiring an attorney to fight condemnation proceedings against their property in court. If you think you might be facing such a fight, we thought we’d post what we know about this process.
Under Texas law, eminent domain is the legal authority to take private property for public use. The takings process itself is called condemnation. Effective February 1, 2008, Texas property cannot be taken unless the condemning authority first provides the Landowner’s Bill of Rights to the affected property’s owners. All rights outlined in this document apply every time any entity uses eminent domain to take a Texas landowner’s private property.
The Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights consists of 10 basic principles:
- You are entitled to receive adequate compensation if your property is taken for a public use.
- Your property can only be taken for a public use.
- Your property can only be taken by a governmental entity or private entity authorized by law to do so.
- The entity that wants to take your property must notify you about its interest in taking your property.
- The entity proposing to take your property must provide you with an assessment of the adequate compensation for your property.
- The entity proposing to take your property must make a good faith offer to buy the property before it files a lawsuit to condemn the property.
- You may hire an appraiser or other professional to determine the value of your property or to assist you in any condemnation proceeding.
- You may hire an attorney to negotiate with the condemning entity and to represent you in any legal proceedings involving the condemnation.
- Before your property is condemned, you are entitled to a hearing before a court-appointed panel that includes three special commissioners.
- If you are unsatisfied with the compensation awarded by the special commissioners, or if you question whether the taking of your property was proper, you have the right to a trial by jury.
The Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights , along with an explanation of the condemnation process, is available at http://www.oag.state.tx.us/AG_Publications/txts/propertyguide2005.shtml.
We encourage you to post comments if you have additional valuable information about this process for folks out there facing such a fight.