Texas is a land of wide open countryside. It is also place with a booming oil industry, pending construction of a bullet train and a variety of proposed government projects. This may leave some Texas landowners concerned about eminent domain claims. Here is what you need to know about eminent domain and your rights.

What is eminent domain?

Eminent domain allows the government to confiscate private property for public use. The Fifth Amendment authorizes eminent domain. However, it does not give just anyone absolute authority over your land. For one thing, a private company cannot claim eminent domain over your land.

Land can only be taken for public use

The government can only use the land for certain purposes. Public use includes schools, highways, bridges, railroads, some commercial structures and other uses. According to ABC13, the land cannot be confiscated by the government solely to increase tax revenue or to boost economic development.

An asking price must be fair

The government must offer a just price. During the land condemnation process, the government makes a written offer to the landowner along with certified appraisal. The offer should be fair market value.

A landowner can dispute the offered price

However, you and the government may disagree about fair market value. If you think the price is too low, the government can file a petition, and a special commissioners’ hearing is convened.

Three commissioners decide the value of your property. Both sides will be allowed to present evidence. When deciding fair market value, the court will consider:

  • Property size
  • Zoning
  • How accessible the land is
  • Development of the land
  • Unique features
  • Current or potential use of the land

A landowner that is unsatisfied with the commissioners’ decision can file an appeal.

Dealing with an eminent domain case is difficult. You likely are attached to the land, and do not want to see it go. You also want a fair price for your land. If you are worried about getting fair compensation or believe a claim is invalid, you may want to contact an experienced Texas attorney. An attorney can find strong evidence to support your asking price or possibly discredit the government’s claim on your land.