You’re sitting at home, doing whatever you please, when there is a loud knock at the front door. You go to open it, and standing on the other side is a government official holding a document. The worker hands you the paperwork. It’s a right-of-entry request, part of an eminent domain claim on your property.

The official asks you to sign it. Do you have to?

Right-of-entry requests

The type of situation described above isn’t uncommon in Texas (though oftentimes an official shows up in person only if you fail to respond to a mailed right-of-entry request). It’s been particularly prevalent in the Rio Grande Valley recently, with the federal government seeking to take control of land as part of the effort to build a border wall. But these actions can happen to any landowner across the state.

So what is a right-of-entry request? It’s generally one of the earlier steps in an eminent domain claim. A representative of a condemning entity, such as a government agency, often needs to survey the property in question before moving forward. In order to conduct the survey, they send the current property owner a right-of-entry request, asking for permission to do so.

A right-of-entry request may include elements such as:

  • A timeline for the survey work
  • Explicit permission for workers to enter and exit the site as needed
  • A notice about tools that might be brought on to the property
  • A description of the property

At the end, it asks the landowner to sign, granting the entity the authority to do the survey work.

Do I have to sign a right-of-entry request?

Here’s what they don’t mention: You are not required to sign the right-of-entry request form. You can refuse to put your signature on the paper and end the conversation there.

Refusing to sign may not ultimately stop what’s happening, however. When a condemning entity is granted the legal right to take certain land, they also generally gain the right to do survey work on it.

What can you do if you’re uncomfortable with the situation? There may be a way to restrict what they can do by adding certain stipulations to a right-of-entry agreement. You might, for example, require the condemning entity to notify you before anyone enters your property, or include language ensuring they fix any damage they cause.

From there, you may need to consider your legal options for fighting eminent domain and ensuring you receive fair compensation.