As one would expect, Texas is a strong property rights state in every meaning of the term. Yet, I can guarantee that almost no Texans are aware that the State of Texas has a Landowner’s Bill of Rights. I was recently given a copy which was prepared by the office of the Attorney General of Texas. These rights pertain to any attempt by a government or private entity to take a landowner’s property. The ten specific rights according to the Attorney General are:
- You are entitled to receive adequate compensation if your property is taken for a public use.
- Your property can only be taken for a public use.
- Your property can only be taken by a governmental entity or private entity authorized by law to do so.
- The entity that wants to take your property must notify you that it wants to take your property.
- The entity proposing to take your property must provide you with a written appraisal from a certified appraiser detailing the adequate compensation you are owed for your property.
- The entity proposing to take your property must make a bona fide offer to buy the property before it files a lawsuit to condemn the property – which means the condemning entity must make a good faith offer that conforms with Chapter 21 of the Texas Property Code.
- You may hire an appraiser or other professional to determine the value of your property or to assist you in any condemnation proceeding.
- You may hire an attorney to negotiate with the condemning entity and to represent you in any legal proceedings involving the condemnation.
- Before your property is condemned, you are entitled to a hearing before a court appointed panel that includes three special commissioners. The special commissioners must determine the amount of compensation the condemning entity owes for the taking of your property. The commissioners must also determine what compensation, if any, you are entitled to receive for any reduction in value of your remaining property.
- If you are unsatisfied with the compensation awarded by the special commissioners, or f you question whether the taking of your property was proper, you have the right to a trial by judge or jury. If you are dissatisfied with the trial court’s judgement, you may appeal that decision.
Landowners in Hays County have been learning the hard way about the ins and outs of condemnation as many have been fighting the recent pipeline. Before that, landowners were incensed across the state as LCRA erected transmission lines to reach the wind turbine installations. In my limited experience with condemnation proceeding, I can honestly say that I have seen very few landowners get full value without the assistance of professionals.