About Eminent Domain
Eminent domain is the legal authority for a governmental entity, or a private entity authorized by the government, to take private property for public use.
A government authority or private entity authorized by the government can condemn, or take, private property for a variety of public uses. However, the 5th amendment of the United States Constitution does not allow “private property [to] be taken for public use without just compensation.”
The Condemnation Process
Condemnation is the process by which private property is taken. It is a process where there is not a willing buyer and a willing seller. Condemnation is a “forced” legal transaction. In Texas, both the eminent domain and the condemnation processes are governed by Chapter 21 of the Texas Property Code.
The condemnation process has several stages:
a) A good faith negotiation is attempted between the condemnor and a private property owner. If a landowner and the condemning authority cannot reach an agreement after the final offer, the condemnor may file a petition in the county court where the property is located;
b) Once a suit is filed, a judge will appoint three disinterested property owners to serve as Special Commissioners within the county to hear evidence and assess compensation to the landowner. A hearing is conducted where appraisals are presented by both parties and an award of compensation is determined by the Commissioners;
c) If either party is dissatisfied with the Special Commission’s award or wish to pursue other matters before a court, they may continue through the process and appeal the Commissioners’ decision by proceeding with a civil condemnation suit.
Condemnation continues to be a burdensome proposition for landowners who are often not made “whole” through this legal process – and there are many inequities at all stages of the process that need to be remedied.
Despite some progress made in recent legislative sessions to make eminent domain law more protective of private property owners’ rights, much remains to be done to make the process more fair to landowners.
This website provides basic information about some of the problems and potential solutions in the condemnation process. We stand in solidarity with organizations around the state working to reform eminent domain.