According to the Texas Constitution, when the government or another condemning entity wants to take your property through the power of eminent domain, it must offer adequate compensation. (Federal eminent domain proceedings are required to pay just compensation and utilize a different procedure). Condemning entities can include the city, county, and state government, as well as school districts, utility companies, pipeline operators and other agencies with eminent domain authority.
No matter the entity that seeks to take your property, the term “adequate compensation” can be confusing. Adequate compensation for your property is based on a real estate appraisal.
The amount is based on an appraisal
Adequate compensation contemplates money for the portion of the property to be acquired, whether in fee (a transfer of title from the property owner to the condemning authority) or in easement (temporary or permanent use of land where the property owner retains title but the condemning authority acquires control), and the impact of the project necessitating the exercise of the eminent domain authority to your remaining property. For the condemning authority with a large project, there can be many properties to be appraised. Time constraints, lack of experience and training, lack of project information, and other factors may influence the determination of adequate compensation based on the real estate appraisal. Any or all of these factors can impact the compensation offered at the beginning of the eminent domain process, which may or may not be “adequate.” Although no amount offered may seem appropriate, a property owner is not required to accept this initial offer and should not assume the real estate appraisal accurately values the property and the compensation due if the property is condemned.
Evaluating the offer
While the condemning entity can ultimately condemn a property whether or not the property wants to sell, you have the constitutional right to be paid adequate compensation for the property taken and compensation for any damage to any property you will continue to own when the eminent domain proceeding is finalized. If the offer is less than adequate compensation, the Texas statutory condemnation process is intended to determine the compensation the condemning authority must pay for the property taken.
The first step in a Texas eminent domain proceeding is a special commissioners’ hearing. During a commissioners’ hearing, a judge appoints three landowners in the county who will hear evidence from the condemning authority and property owner to determine what adequate compensation should look like in the specific situation. The task of the commissioners is to assess compensation, not whether the condemnation is appropriate. If neither party is satisfied with the commissioners’ decision, the matter can be appealed and presented to a jury, who will decide adequate compensation due as a result of the eminent domain proceeding.
The condemnation process can be frustrating and confusing. It may seem like you have no control in the situation, but it is essential to remember that you have rights when it comes to selling your property for public use. An experienced attorney can support you and help you find the right solution.