Texas Condemnation Law ▪ Protecting Your Property
The Condemnation Process
The process involved in the government taking your land is a technical process. It is important to understand the different steps involved in the condemnation process. Avant & Mitchell has staff dedicated to practice exclusively in Texas condemnation law. We are happy to personally advise you about your rights as a property owner, including the issues involved with:
- How to determine the value of your property. We advise clients on the affects of market trends, project influence, condemnation blight, and land use restriction upon your property's value.
- When the government damages your property without paying you any compensation, it is called Inverse Condemnation. This may involve restrictive regulation, flooding, access denial, lateral support or other issues.
- Understanding the impact of land use restrictions, zoning, and the application of the highest and best use principals.
- The framers of our Constitutions required that you get fair compensation for the taking of your property by the government through condemnation.
- Understanding what a project will look like or its impact upon driveways, parking or access.
What should you do when you are put on notice of a pending condemnation process?
Legal exercise of the power of Eminent Domain requires the Condemnor to follow a statutorily defined process. After official determination that the property must be taken as a public necessity, the Texas Property Code requires the Condemnor to make a good faith offer to purchase, which should be based upon an appraisal.
In practice, however, the system is adversarial. Owners and tenants are likely to encounter a team of career professionals trained by a Condemnor that may be more concerned by its budget or schedule than rights of the Condemnee.
Many owners are sophisticated, knowledge real estate investors. Nevertheless, in order to ensure your property rights are protected, you should consult an experienced lawyer to guide you through the condemnation law process.
Steps of the Condemnation Process
- Step One: The Condemnor decides to pursue a project that requires land for its completion, and makes a determination that certain specific property rights must be taken as a public necessity.
- Step Two: The Condemnor should notify you, request permission to inspect the property, survey it and perform an appraisal. At this point the Owner should consult an experienced condemnation lawyer.
- Step Three: A Condemnor “negotiator” provides you with a valuation of your property and makes an "Original Offer."
- Step Four: There is limited opportunity for a response to the offer. If you reject the offer, the government is likely to file a Petition in Condemnation lawsuit against you. However, this does not mean that settlement opportunities are forever lost.
- Step Five: The Court will appoint three Special Commissioners to conduct a hearing on compensation. You will be notified of a hearing date. NOTE: Condemnor may be able to exclude evidence that is not revealed to Condemnor by the 11th day before the hearing. The Commissioners decide a value and make a “Commissioners’ Award” of an amount of money.
- Step Six: Any party may object to the Commissioners' Award. The step invokes the condemnation appeals process, to have compensation determined by the Court with a new trial. NOTE there is a short time frame for filing Objections.
- Step Seven: The Condemnor must deposit the amount of compensation with the Court prior to taking possession of the property. The actual deposit is generally at least 30 days after the date of the Commissioners' Hearing. At this time the owners may withdraw their portion of the award.
- Step Eight: If a party appeals a Commissioners' Award, there is typically another round of settlement negotiation. Texas Civil Procedure Rules apply as in trial de novo (or a completely new trial, without reference to the Commissioners' Hearing). Pretrial discovery and refinement of expert witness presentations will usually precede mediation and trial will only be reached if no settlement is forthcoming.
We recommend that you contact an experienced lawyer immediately after receiving the notice outlined in Step 2 above.
Feel free to contact us at 512-478-5757 if you have additional questions, or just wish to discuss your concerns.