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Has Your Property Been Threatened with Eminent Domain?

Eminent domain, also called “condemnation,” is the power of the state or federal government to condemn and force the sale of private property that is necessary for a public use. As the Texas population has grown, its need for basic infrastructure-highways, roads, rail lines, electric transmission lines, gas pipelines, water pipelines, and other public projects-has led to the power of eminent domain being delegated to certain private companies. With the growth of the Texas economy and population unlikely to slow down there is an increasing chance that all or part of your property might be condemned for a pipeline, transmission line, road, or other public use.

However, a property owner, whether commercial, residential, or rural, is not left solely to the whims of the entity seeking to use its’ power of eminent domain. Specifically, the United States and Texas Constitutions require that the property being condemned must be put to a public use and that the property owner must be paid just compensation. As a result, some of the most intensely debated and litigated matters in a condemnation proceeding are whether the property will be put to a public use, whether the property owner is paid just compensation, and whether the entity even has the power of eminent domain.

Securing Just Compensation

If you cannot stop a company from taking your property, whether by challenging the company’s right of eminent domain or by challenging whether the property will be put to a public use, then the issue becomes one of just compensation to the property owner.

Under the law, just compensation is determined by the fair market value-the price a willing buyer would pay in an open market-at the property’s highest and best use. However, this value can be difficult to determine and will almost certainly be more than what the company if offering to pay.

Our attorneys will thoroughly analysis the value of the property being condemned taking into consideration the reduction in value to any remaining property and any other issues that could impact the value of the property.

Negotiating Easements

Frequently, a company or governmental entity seeking to utilize its’ power of eminent domain is looking to acquire an easement or right-of-way, across a portion of the property, to install pipelines, transmission lines, or roads. Nevertheless, the property owner is still being forced to sale property and he or she needs to take proactive steps to adequately protect current and future property and financial interests. The first step should be to contact an experienced and capable condemnation lawyer.

Our attorneys are highly skilled negotiators and have negotiated easements throughout Texas and New Mexico. They will ensure that the easement fully protects current and future property owners while at the same time restricting the rights of the company acquiring the easement.

Jake Lederle, Partner, recently wrote an article titled Negotiating & Drafting Pipeline Easements, which provides property owners practical insights when negotiating easements. To read the full article click here.

Frequently Asked Questions On Eminent Domain

Eminent domain is one of the most complex areas of the law. Clients turn to us to get answers they need when they need them, which is often right away. Your specific issue may need a lot of research and work to find an answer. To get you started on the path to the answers you need, here are the answers to questions we get the most.

What does “for public use” mean in the context of eminent domain?

In the context of eminent domain, the phrase “for public use” refers to the constitutional requirement that government entities may only exercise their power of eminent domain to take private property if it is for a public purpose or benefit. The government can take private property for projects that serve the public interest, such as the construction of public infrastructure like roads, schools, parks or utilities.

What is considered “just compensation” for individuals whose land is taken via eminent domain?

“Just compensation” for individuals whose land is taken via eminent domain refers to the fair and full monetary value that the property owner is entitled to receive. It aims to provide the property owner with financial reimbursement equivalent to the property’s market value at the time of the taking. The goal is to ensure that property owners are adequately compensated for the loss of their property rights. The determination of just compensation may involve appraisals, assessments and considerations of various factors, such as the property’s market value, improvements and any associated damages.

Can I stop the government from seizing my land?

The ability to stop the government from seizing your land through eminent domain can depend on various factors, including the specific laws in your jurisdiction and the circumstances surrounding the government’s action. In general, property owners have limited options to prevent eminent domain, but they may challenge the public purpose of the condemnation and negotiate with the government for better compensation or alternative solutions.

What if I think the offer from the government is too low?

You can fight back, and an experienced attorney can help. Independent, professional appraisals of your property can help you support a claim for higher compensation. In addition, you may be able to negotiate for relocation benefits.

Protect Your Financial Interests. Contact Wetsel, Allen, & Lederle, LLP

If you have been approached by a company seeking an easement or your property has been threatened with eminent domain you need an experienced and capable condemnation lawyer. Our lawyers have nearly 100 years of combined experience in the complex and nuanced area of eminent domain law. Learn your rights. Call Wetsel, Allen, & Lederle, LLP, at 800-787-0784, or contact the firm online to schedule a consultation.