You receive notice that a company wants to build a pipeline on your land. This is your family’s land that has passed through the generations. Your farm and raise cattle. This is your livelihood.
Do you have options? You do not want to sell it, but you may not have a choice. As a landowner, you have the rights and the legal capability to get the best value for your land.
What is eminent domain?
Eminent domain is the power of the government to take land for public use. The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution states that private property cannot be taken for public use without compensation. The definition changes throughout the years with regards to both government and nongovernment entities.
- Know your rights. The Office of the Attorney General of Texas published a document called the Landowner’s Bill of Rights which outlines your rights as it pertains to eminent domain. It details the following processes:
- The taking procedure
- Condemnation proceedings
- Special Commissioners’ Hearing
- Special Commissioners’ Award
- Objections and dismissals
- Relocation costs
- Should you seek legal advice? Researching your rights and talking with neighbors is fine, to a point. You may or may not be an expert on this, so seeking legal advice from an attorney who has experience with eminent domain may be your best option. Each piece of land is unique, and an attorney can help you understand the legalese in the offer.
- Check the easements. Make sure the easement is specific. Pipeline companies may use broad terminology when telling you where they will lay the pipes. The paperwork may show the company will lay the pipeline “over and across” your property which allows it to put the line anywhere on the property.
- Get the appraisal. Always, always ask to get an appraisal. You may not receive one with the initial offer, but by law, you must get one somewhere in the offer process. You may want to contact a qualified land appraiser to help you determine the value of your land.
Be ready for a long, drawn-out process. Do not let a company take your land without getting the compensation you deserve.