Under the U.S. Constitution, government can enforce eminent domain to take ownership of your property and convert it for the public’s use. A complete taking, however, usually includes paying “just compensation” for your property.
Both local and federal agencies have the authority to convert private property for the public’s benefit. Common usages include projects such as building water-treatment plants or installing railroad tracks.
Receiving notice from the government
The process starts with a condemnation notice informing a property owner that the government intends to use its power of eminent domain. An official generally advises you of an appraisal of your property, which the government typically uses to determine its value and make an offer.
As noted by U.S. News & World Report, enforced takings through eminent domain generally occur when a property owner does not wish to sell. When refusing the government’s initial offer to purchase your property, you may, however, receive another.
Responding to a notice of condemnation
While the U.S. Constitution requires property owners to receive “just” compensation, a property’s “fair market value” may not actually provide it. You could consider negative financial factors caused by the uprooting, such as your costs to relocate or sell an otherwise profitable business.
The University of North Texas initiated eminent domain proceedings to acquire a strip of property used by five small businesses. It sent several condemnation notices after failing to receive an acceptance of its offer or any counteroffers. As reported by the Denton Record-Chronicle, one restaurant owner decided to enter into negotiations. As a result, the university agreed to pay him $1.4 million for the taking.
The school also agreed to allow the restaurant to remain open for another year after the purchase. The other four businesses, however, did not negotiate and had to accept the university’s initial offer.
Understanding your landowner’s rights
When receiving a condemnation notice, you have options under the Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights. To ensure that you receive an offer that reflects a realistic value for your property, you may choose to negotiate with government officials.