Government entities and private companies frequently use condemnation and the power of eminent domain to acquire land necessary for oil and gas pipelines, roads, and public transit lines.
State law requires these entities to make a good faith offer to buy land from property owners at a fair price. But, many claim that initial offers often do not match the true market value of the property.
Texas Senate Bill 421, proposed by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, is the latest in a long line of proposed legislation that attempts to protect Texas property owners from having their property unfairly taken by the government.
Protection against low-ball offers
Property owners are entitled to payment when their land is taken under eminent domain. This usually means the fair market value of the property. But, that doesn’t stop entities from offering a laughably low sum for the land they intend to take.
If passed, Senate Bill 421 would require more transparency and fairer offers to landowners. It also includes provisions that would force companies caught trying to low-ball landowners to pay back the landowner’s attorney’s fees.
Senate Bill 421 is limited to private corporations
While Sen. Kolkhorst’s proposed legislation provides landowners with protection against low-ball offers, it is limited to private, for-profit entities. The bill lacks any protection against government agencies exercising the power of eminent domain.
So, while Senate Bill 421 may have an impact on the abuse of power in the private sector, property owners still face the challenge of going toe-to-toe with the government.
As we have discussed previously on this blog, property owners do not have to accept the first offer made in an eminent domain case. As legislation develops, landowners still have the option to fight for their rights.