What are Eminent Domain and Condemnation in Texas – Attorneys Wharton Richmond El Campo
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What are Eminent Domain and Condemnation in Texas – Attorneys Wharton Richmond El Campo

Hi! My name is Philip Hundl. I’m an
attorney with Wadler Perches Hundle & Kerlick, here in Wharton
County. Our law firm serves Wharton County and surrounding counties in southeast
Texas. Today, I’d like to talk about condemnation eminent domain proceedings. Landowners are oftentimes faced with or
approached by companies that are seeking to condemn or take your land. As a
landowner, you have rights. And I’d like to go over your rights and
the process today. In this day and age, we hear a lot about infrastructure.
Infrastructure can come in many shapes and sizes and forms, from power lines to
pipelines to roadways. And if you’re a landowner and you are confronted with or
contacted by one of these companies or their agents about seeking an
easement or right of way from you, you will most likely be faced with a
condemnation proceeding if an arrangement isn’t worked out.
So let’s talk about that. Can a company just…or does a private
company have the right to take your property? The answer is maybe.
And it’s if that private company, be it a pipeline company or a power
line company, has the authority, governmental authority, to acquire your
land for “public use,” I’ll use it in quotations, “public use.” If it’s been
determined that the activity that the private company is seeking to accomplish
by taking your property is for public use, then, yes, it’s very possible that they
have the right or the authorization to condemn your property. And if they do,
then there are definitely some rights as a landowner that you have, and there’s a
process that you need to understand. First, determining if the company
has the right to condemn or not. Normally the company will present you
with an order approving condemnation or a letter approving condemnation from some
governmental entity. And if they do, then they have the right to condemn your
property. But they have to follow certain rights that are set out in the Texas
Property Code, Chapter 21. One of which is presenting you with a
landowner’s bill of rights. And typically it will be presented to you
in this form, in English, and then also in Spanish. And these are
two examples of those. In the process, typically, in the
beginning, the pipeline company will provide you with an appraisal or valuation
of your property. The intention there is to give you an idea what they believe your
property is worth and probably what they’re willing to pay you for either
acquiring your property or an easement or right of to use your property.
And if that amount of, you know, compensation is agreeable to you, then you
may have a deal. But I stress that don’t enter lightly into an agreement with a
company without better understanding your legal rights. And that would be by
contacting an attorney who is very familiar with the condemnation process.
And by exploring your rights, you’ll better understand also the legal
implications of that legal document that they’re wanting you to sign, be it a right
of way agreement, easement agreement, or a deed that would actually convey your
property right to the private company. Once you understand your legal rights and
the process and are familiar with your landowner’s bill of rights, then you
can delve into more the calculation of damages or what you believe your
property is worth and how much the activities on your property will harm your
remaining property if the private company is only taking a portion of your land. So,
there definitely needs to be a discussion with your legal representation about
damages. And those can be monetary or even non-monetary damages or
remedies that you’re seeking. Next, I’m going to pick up with more of
the legal process if you cannot reach an agreement with the private company.

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