Imagine simply enjoying the fruits of your labor and facing a Texas government claim on your land the next day. While upsetting, this scenario happens quite often. It arises due to the state’s authority to invoke eminent domain laws or to take private property for public use, provided they meet specific conditions.
Considering the genuine possibility of losing your home and land, equipping yourself with knowledge is one step toward protecting your rights as a property owner.
The basics of eminent domain
Eminent domain is the authority granted to the government to take private property for public benefit. This includes hospitals, roads, parks, airports, and other public infrastructure. However, the state cannot take these properties for free.
While the government can seize private property, it must still follow due process and provide owners fair compensation. The government begins the taking process by deciding which properties it needs and alerting the landowners. Next, they must calculate the market value of each property and make an offer to purchase.
A property owner can reject this proposal, after which the state must provide a bona fide offer. If the landowner declines the bona fide offer, the state may file a lawsuit to assert its rights over the land, also known as condemnation proceedings.
Challenging eminent domain
If you received a notice, it is likely because your property overlaps with a public project. However, the offer you receive may be below what you consider market value or is insufficient to pay the costs of relocating. You might also discover that the project does not truly benefit the public.
To help you fight condemnation, it’s essential to be aware that the government’s eminent domain authority has limits:
- The government must compensate you adequately for your property.
- The government can only take your land for legitimate public purposes.
As a landowner, you have two options: negotiate a higher settlement or contest that the project is not for public use.
You may hire a third-party appraiser to determine the value of your property and use the information to support your claim. Meanwhile, proving that a government project is solely for private gain may be more challenging.
Property owners often bear a heavy burden due to eminent domain. It does not help that victories against the government in these cases are rare. In these difficult circumstances, having the right support is crucial. When facing eminent domain, remember that you have the right to legal representation during court proceedings and negotiations.