November 6, 2012

The Texas eminent domain attorneys at Barron & Adler LLP provide comprehensive legal representation to clients throughout Texas in the field of eminent domain and regulatory takings. We vigorously fight for the property rights of landowners and educate professionals and the public about eminent domain issues. Below is a list of frequently asked questions to help you understand the complex field of eminent domain law.

What is eminent domain?

Eminent domain is the power of the government to take private land.  This power is limited to only takings for a public use and even then only with payment of just and adequate compensation.

In the state of Texas, many citizens own or have an interest in property. These property or property interest owners have homes, apartment buildings, condos, commercial buildings or land that they can use as they please. If you are a landowner in Texas, you may believe that as long as you pay your bills and taxes, no one can take your property from you.  This is not true; the government has the legal right to take your land for a legitimate public use.  However, the government must compensate you fairly for your property or property interest taken.

What is condemnation?

Condemnation is the government’s exercise of its power of eminent domain.  The landowner or tenant is entitled to just compensation for the property interest being taken but the taking can occur even without his or her approval of the sale.

What is inverse condemnation?

Inverse condemnation is a landowner’s remedy in court in the situation where the government has taken his or her property without providing just compensation.  An inverse condemnation action can occur when the government’s over-regulation of a piece of property and effectively takes it even though there is no physical taking.

Can the government take my property against my will?

The government can in many, but not all cases, take your property for a public use, but not without providing you with reasonable compensation. When the government exercises its power of eminent domain, it will usually have an appraisal conducted on your property to determine its fair market value. From this appraisal, it will make you an offer to purchase your property.

In most but not all eminent domain cases, you will have to sell to sell your property to the government.  But in every case, even where you are challenging the government’s right to take, you can contest the original offer made. In any case, you should not accept any offer until you have spoken with a Texas eminent domain lawyer.

What are my rights to just compensation?

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 17, of the Texas Constitution state that private property cannot be taken for public use without just or adequate compensation. This means that neither the federal, state nor local government can take your land without paying you fairly for it and it can only be taken for an authorized public use.

Does the government take land only for public projects?

The government can take land to build a park, school, road or other public project. In some situations, private companies also can condemn property.  These instances include oil and gas pipeline companies that are deemed to be common carriers.  But in Texas, economic development cannot serve as the basis for validating a condemnation; this has been determined not to be a public use.

Can I stop the government from taking my land?

In most cases, once the government decides to exercise its power of eminent domain, you will not be able to avoid losing your property to a forced sale. However, in limited cases, you can prove that the government is not following the law in attempting to take property. In these cases, you may be able to keep your property.  You will need an experienced Texas eminent domain attorney to help you craft the strongest argument.