According to the State of Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights from the Office of the Attorney General of Texas, the government has the legal authority to take private property for public use. This authority, known as “eminent domain,” grants the government the right to take private property for purposes that would benefit the public only. The law prohibits the taking of private property for tax or economic purposes.
If you learn that the government plans to take your property for public use, you have certain inalienable rights. The first is the right to adequate compensation. When notifying you of its desire to take your property, the government must provide you with a written assessment from a qualified appraiser that details how he or she came up with the property value. It must also make a good faith offer to buy the property. If you refuse, only then may the government proceed with the condemnation process.
Your right to a commission
If you and the condemning entity cannot agree on compensation, the entity must file a condemnation claim. The judge overseeing the claim will then assign three local property owners to act as special commissioners. The job of the special commissioner is to assess the entity’s offer fairly and impartially and without regard to the necessity of the condemnation. You have the right to strike one of the commissioners from the hearing, but you must do so within a reasonable period of time.
Your right to a private appraisal
Not only do you have the right to acquire an appraisal separate from that which the government provided but also, you have a duty to. The courts will require you to provide the reports you used to determine that the condemning entity’s offer was inadequate. You must provide the appraisal three business days before the special commissioners’ hearing or within 10 days of receiving it, whichever comes first. You have the right to legal representation throughout the entire process.
Your right to objection and appeal
If, after reviewing all available evidence, the court decides on an award amount with which you are still dissatisfied, you have the right to object it. An objection will essentially restart the condemnation proceedings. You must file an objection in writing and in a timely manner. If you feel dissatisfied with the decision following trial, you may file an appeal.