Texas Eminent Domain Attorneys
While the government has an inherent right – called eminent domain – to take private property for public use, many Texas property owners are not aware that private entities – oil, gas and utility companies, for instance – may also have the power of eminent domain if the company’s project is regarded as public use.
At Cherry Johnson Siegmund James, we provide aggressive legal representation for Texas landowners whose property rights are being threatened by eminent domain/condemnation by the government or by a private entity.
Laws Recognizing the Right of Eminent Domain and Condemnation
The federal government and the Texas state government both recognize the right of the government to seize property and use it for the public good if they deem it necessary. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution ensures citizens that they will be awarded fair compensation if their property is taken.
The Texas Constitution, Article I, Section Seventeen reinforces the right to be fairly compensated if your property is taken, damaged, or destroyed for public use. Being fairly compensated is a right. It may take an eminent domain and condemnation lawyer in Texas to ensure that you receive the fair amount you are due.
When the power of eminent domain is exercised, it is referred to as condemnation. When the entity authorized to claim the property through eminent domain takes the property, it is practicing condemnation.
Three Elements of Texas Eminent Domain
According to Texas Law, there are three elements that must be met when land or property is being taken, damaged, or destroyed by the government or an authorized entity. These are as follows:
- The actor must be the state or a private entity authorized to enact the condemnation process.
- The property must be utilized for public use.
- The property owner must be adequately compensated for the property facing condemnation.
What Can Be Condemned?
Any or all parts of a property may be taken. This may be land, an easement through a piece of property, modifications such as houses or barns, and the rights to surface water such as ponds, river access, lake frontage, or groundwater such as that used to irrigate crops and provide water to homes and livestock.
The entity given the right to condemn the property determines how much it needs for public use and then is given comprehensive prudence over the decisions made for the property. Unless there is an abuse of discretion, including fraud or bad faith, like it or not, they have free run of the place.
Calculating Adequate Compensation
When determining fair compensation, we look to Texas Property Code Section 21.042. The damages paid to the landowner is calculated based on the property’s current market value. “Current market value” is the price the property would sell for if it was offered to someone who wants to buy the property. This does not include the price it would fetch if someone needed to buy the property.
There will be a special commission hearing, and at that specific time the hearing takes place, the market value of the land will be established. Land values fluctuate over time, causing them to be worth significantly more or less depending on the economy and what is taking place around the land.
Landowners are entitled to the amount of money they would for the “highest and best use” of their property. This means, for example, that a vacant tract that is not in use, surrounded by the commercially developed property, would not be valued at the cost of the empty area but would be priced similarly to the developed property adjacent or nearby.
Extenuating Factors In Determining the Value of Condemned Property in Texas
What if all of the property in a land tract is not taken? Damages will be paid for the market value of the part of the land condemned, but the value of the remaining property should also be taken into consideration. This could include injuries that are specific to the landowner.
These damages may include the property owner’s use or enjoyment of their property is reduced. Damages that are shared with the landowner and the community as a whole will not be regarded when determining an award for damages, so things like increased traffic will not be considered.
Some common damage awards may include the following:
- Loss of access to a road or highway
- Loss of road frontage
- Loss of water sources
- Cost of fencing
It helps to have an eminent domain and condemnation attorney to take a look at the calculations being made because there are various methods that can take advantage of landowners. For instance, it could be argued that taking a piece of property from a landowner increased the value of their remaining land. The monetary amount of damages will be adjusted to reflect the increase in property value in the damages that are recoverable to the landowner.
While displaced property owners must leave their homes or businesses, they are not entitled to recovery of moving expenses according to the law. But, may be able to seek financial help with a move to a maximum distance of 50 miles. Further, property owners may seek the following if the situation permits:
- Relocation assistance
- Relocation payments
- Housing assistance
- Relocation of farming or ranching operations
Federal Tax Implications
It is essential to note that if you are being involuntarily forced to turn your property over to the government, you are awarded financial compensation. The property owner may reinvest that money without being charged a capital gain tax. To be exempt from that tax, the land owner must invest in property that is similar or of related use or service.
We Fight To Protect Your Rights And Help You Get Fair Compensation
When the government or a private company decides to take all or a portion of your property, the law requires that your property be appraised and that you are offered fair compensation. Determining what is “fair” in these cases is often the subject of litigation.
At Cherry Johnson Seigmund James, we understand the difficulties and frustrations that landowners face in eminent domain/condemnation cases, and we will work hard for you and help you reach a positive outcome.
We negotiate customized solutions in eminent domain/condemnation disputes. Our attorneys have a record of success in this controversial area of law. We can help you obtain an accurate appraisal and strongly negotiate on your behalf to maximize your compensation.
It is crucial for you to have an aggressive lawyer on your side with experience in negotiating these matters. At Cherry Johnson Siegmund James, we frequently collaborate with real estate experts and other skilled professionals in the field to achieve positive results for our clients.
In some cases, it is possible to stop the condemnation of your property by showing that the taking is not legitimately for public use. We can thoroughly investigate your case and explain whether this is a viable option for you.
Arrange A Free Consultation With An Eminent Domain Attorney
If a government authority or private company is threatening to take your land, contact the skilled attorneys of Cherry Johnson Siegmund James. We have the knowledge and experience to protect the rights and interests of Texas ranchers, farmers, recreational property owners, and homeowners who are facing eminent domain/condemnation actions.
To request a free initial consultation, please complete our online contact form or call our offices in Waco at (254) 732-2242.