At Vassallo & Salazar, P.C., we believe it is important for property owners to understand the condemnation process. While the process of taking private land is complex and has many nuances, it can be summed up in the following steps:
Notification And Offer
The condemning entity will send you notification and an initial offer to purchase your land. After the initial offer, the condemning entity will work with an appraiser to determine the fair market value of your land. You will be given an opportunity to review the initial offer. The review time varies from state to state. Assuming there is no agreement regarding the offered compensation, a final offer will be sent to you.
There are three important things to know during the notification and offer stage: first, the condemning entity's appraiser's estimation of fair market value may be inaccurate, so it should not be taken at face value; second, you have the right to negotiate; third, you have the right to an attorney. We will review your case, determine an accurate amount of compensation and negotiate on your behalf. We may be able to resolve the matter prior to a formal filing of a condemnation petition.
Filing Of The Condemnation Petition
A condemnation suit is a lawsuit filed by the condemning entity against the property owner. The condemning entity files a petition with the court, and the petition must contain specific information about the land that is being condemned and the purpose of the condemnation. The petition must state that the condemning entity adhered to the property owner's rights when making the initial and final offers.
After the petition is filed, our lawyers will educate you about your options. Negotiations may continue even after the lawsuit is filed, and a settlement may be reached if the condemning entity is willing to make a fair offer. We leverage more than 100 years of combined experience and extensive knowledge of property values and condemnation law in order to achieve positive settlements, even after suits have been filed.
Special Commissioners' Hearing
In Texas, and other states that use an administrative proceeding, if a settlement is not reached, three landowners will be appointed by the court as special commissioners. Their role is to conduct a hearing to determine a fair amount of compensation for the land that is being taken. The Special Commissioners' Hearing is quite different than a typical trial, starting with the rules of commissioner selection. For example, both the condemning entity and landowner have the right to strike one of the commissioners and have the court appoint a new commissioner. The commissioners review the information presented at the hearing and issue an award.
It is important you choose an attorney who understands how the commissioners' hearings function. We are well-versed in providing clear evidence in these hearings to make certain the commissioners recognize the full compensation owed to the landowner.
If the problem is not with the amount of compensation, but with the validity of the condemnation, we may skip the commissioners' hearing and proceed to trial to challenge the petition. Perhaps the condemning entity does not actually have the right of eminent domain. Perhaps the proposed project is for private, rather than public use. Whatever the case may be, we will proceed to trial if necessary to stop the condemnation process.
Trial And Appeals
Either the landowner or the condemning authority may object to the special commissioners' award. If objections are filed, there may be another attempt at reaching a settlement. If settlement is not reached, litigation will continue. Mediation may be attempted to reach an agreement, or the case may go to trial.
We have decades of experience at eminent domain trials and a proven track record representing property owners in front of a judge or a jury.
We can also handle all stages of eminent domain appeals in the state appellate courts and state supreme courts as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.
Free Initial Consultation About Condemnation Proceedings
For more information, call us at 800-231-3657 or send us an email. We offer retainer and contingent fee options.