Eminent domain is the legal authority that certain governmental bodies and authorized private entities have to condemn private property in exchange for an adequate compensation for a public purpose. Private property, in the context of eminent domain, includes privately owned land and certain improvements on such privately owned land.
The State of Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights
The Landowner’s Bill of Rights is contained in section 02.301 of the Texas Government Code and chapter 21 of the Texas Property Code. According to the Bill of Rights, every property owner has a set of 11 rights, which are as outlined here:
- A property owner is entitled to adequate compensation in the event of any condemnation.
- The condemning authority can only condemn the private property if that is for public use.
- Only government and authorized private entities can condemn a private property.
- The condemning authority must provide prior notification of any condemnation to the property owner.
- The condemning authority must provide the property owner with a valuation of the property determined by a certified appraiser.
- If a property owner believes there has been any misconduct, that property owner has the right to file a complaint with the Texas Real Estate Commission.
- The condemning authority must make a bona fide offer to buy a property before it condemns it.
- A property owner has the right to hire an independent appraiser or real estate professional for assistance during the condemnation proceeding.
- A property owner has the right to hire an attorney for negotiations with the condemning authority and/or for any legal condemnation proceeding.
- There must be a hearing before a court-appointed panel of three commissioners that will determine the amount of compensation to be provided.
- If not satisfied with the compensation determined by the commissioners, a property owner has the right to take the matter to court.
Exercising your rights
Texas laws provide several protections that a property owner can avail. However, the fact remains that negotiating with condemning authorities is often a daunting task for many property owners. Therefore, it may be a wise decision to exercise these rights at an early stage of any condemnation proceeding.