Condemnation in Texas (i.e., Eminent Domain) is a process whereby a State or other entity with the power of Eminent Domain may take all or a part of your property for adequate consideration. The process has three stages.
- The first stage is informal. In this stage, you are usually contacted by a landman or by the condemning authority in an attempt to bargain for the property needed. At the first instance of the condemning authority representing they have the power of eminent domain, they are supposed to also provide to you a copy of the Landowner’s Bill of Rights which generally explains the process. You may obtain a copy of that document at the following link: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/agency/landowners‑bill‑of‑rights. If the negotiations are successful, a price and conditions are reached, and a document of conveyance is executed in exchange for the funds. If that is not successful, the next thing to happen is you will receive an “initial offer” pursuant to the Texas Property Code. Such offer should be accompanied by any appraisal the condemning authority has for the subject property. If the parties are still unable to agree, the Texas Property Code calls for a “Final offer,” which must be equal to or greater than the amount of the condemning authority’s appraisal.
- The second stage is Administrative. If the informal stage is unsuccessful, then it goes to the Administrative Stage. The condemning authority files a suit and the Court appoints three Special Commissioners who are landowners in the County. The Special Commissioners are empowered to set the matter for a hearing, receive evidence, and render a Commissioner’s Award. This is a determination of the value of the property being taken and the damages to the remainder of the property not taken.
- The next stage of the process is Judicial. After the Commissioner’s Hearing, the Award is entered with the Court. If either the Landowner or the condemning authority is not satisfied with the Commissioner’s Award, they may appeal the ruling. If the Award is appealed, the Court hears the case de novo. The case starts as if nothing had previously occurred. So there can be discovery, depositions, motions, etc. Of course at some point there will be a trial, either to the Judge or to a Jury. An appeal does not stop the acquisition from taking place. The condemning authority only has to deposit the amount of the award into the Court’s registry and they can take the land while the appeal is going forward.
This is a very brief overview of the three stages of the condemnation process. For your best results whether you are a landowner or a condemning authority, legal assistance should be obtained at the earliest possible stage. At Hayes, Berry, White & Vanzant, LLP we have two attorneys who are Board Certified in Residential and Commercial Real Estate Law and we are ready, willing and able to assist you in these matters.
Please call us at (940) 387-3518 or contact us here for more information.