Denton County landowners will soon be receiving letters from the Texas Department of Transportation concerning the condemnation of their land along I-35. The state plans to expand the interstate and needs to purchase land to facilitate that expansion. Read more at this Denton Record Chronicle article. Associate William Scazzero writes about the process of condemnation in Texas and how it applies to Denton County residents below:
Condemnation is the process by which a governmental entity take private land for public use. The power to take such property is called the “power of eminent domain”, and is granted to the government of Texas by the Texas Constitution, which also places restrictions upon the exercise of this power. Also, a “common carrier” can obtain the power to condemn as well. This latter scenario is commonly found when private companies acquire land or easements across land to install oil and natural gas pipelines, or above-ground power lines. In the present case, the state of Texas, through TX-DoT, is acquiring land which abuts the current path of I-35E. Because of the restrictions on the power of eminent domain, TX-DoT must follow the guidelines for condemning each and every piece of property they need.
When The taking of private property by eminent domain, the government must follow certain procedures. First, the entity that wants to condemn your property must provide you a copy of Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights. This is a document that explains the rights and responsibilities of both parties to a condemnation proceeding.
Before taking the property, the condemning entity must make a bona fide offer to purchase the property. A “bona fide offer” is more than just an offer to buy the property at any price, however; the government must make an offer that complies with the requirements of Chapter 21 of the Texas Property Code. The landowner always has the right to discuss the offer with others and to either accept or reject the offer made by the condemning entity. Many times, landowners feel the government’s offer is inadequate, or does not adequately compensate them for damages to the remainder of their property. Hiring a competent attorney to manage this process can be very valuable to landowners.
If the government and the landowner disagree, the government will begin condemnation proceedings. It is strongly advised that landowners retain an attorney to represent them in front of the government. Without competent counsel, the government’s appraisals could go unchallenged, the power of eminent domain could go unchecked, and landowners could lose their property for far less than they are entitled to.
If you have been, or suspect you will be contacted by TX-DoT, or another condemning entity who is seeking to condemn your land, the wisest decision is to contact an experienced condemnation attorney who can guide you, represent you against the government, and who can ensure you are paid fair market value for your land.