What is condemnation of property?

Condemnation, also known as the power of eminent domain, is the government’s power to take private property for public purposes. If a proper public use is identified, the government — typically the state government but also the federal government and municipalities — can take your property and provide you with just compensation.

In Texas, the government has also delegated its power of eminent domain to certain private companies who operate certain types of infrastructure for the public good. Specifically, they have delegated it to the operators of pipelines, transmission lines, wind farms and solar arrays.

If one of these projects is routed through your land, you will have no choice but to sell in order to allow the project. Just how much you have to sell and how much compensation you deserve are important questions that are usually handled through negotiation with the state or the energy company.

How much of your land actually needs to be sold?

For example, you might not be required to sell your entire property. It may be that only a small portion of your land is needed. On the other hand, it may be that an energy pipeline or other infrastructure project on one part of your land would affect the value of the whole parcel. That should be considered, as well.

In some cases, you only need to grant an easement or right-of-way. With these, you retain ownership of the land but allow the state or the energy company the right to use part of your land for a particular period of time. Allowing an easement or right-of-way could allow you to continue owning land that may have been in your family for generations.

How is the compensation decided?

That depends on how much of your land is affected, along with other factors such as the fair market value of the land, easement or right-of-way, the reasonably foreseeable value of the land, its location and its characteristics.

Once a fair value of the land has been determined, you would seek that amount in compensation. The government entity or energy company seeking to purchase your land is expected to pay “just compensation.”

To ensure you receive just compensation for your land, you should hire an attorney who has experience analyzing and valuing property for condemnation purposes. Generally, you should never simply accept what the state or energy company offers.