Eminent Domain in the Lone Star State
The subject of Eminent Domain is coming up more and more frequently for Texas municipalities due to the rapid growth in population that Texas has been experiencing over the last decade. While the wave of people moving to the Lonestar State has started to recede thanks to the decline in unemployment across this great country of ours, Texas cities are now working diligently to accommodate their new residents and are therefore finding themselves navigating the treacherous waters of Eminent Domain more than ever before. This can be an arduous process and it takes a detailed understanding of the law to properly condemn a property in the State of Texas.
There are many aspects of the Eminent Domain process that make it a difficult area of law. This blog is intended to highlight the three most important statutes that must be followed to condemn the property. One would logically think that all they need to know is in the Property Code, but in Texas, that is just the starting point. Cities here in Texas not only need to turn to Chapter 21 of the Property Code, but they must also be familiar with Chapter 2206 of the Government Code and Chapter 251 of the Local Government Code.
Chapter 21 of the Texas Property Code aptly titled “Eminent Domain” is where we need to look first to determine the procedures that must be followed. This Chapter will provide information on the initial offer that must be made as well as the documentation that must be provided to the property owner before a final offer (called the “Bona Fide Offer) can be presented. One of the most important pieces of documentation that must be provided to the property owners would be the Landowner’s Bill of Rights pursuant to Section 21.0112. Chapter 21 goes on to discuss the bona fide offer that must be made under Section 21.0113, the condemnation petition that must be filed under 21.012, venue, special commissioners, the hearing etc.
The next statute to look to, as mentioned above, is the Texas Government Code Chapter 2206 also aptly titled “Eminent Domain.” This chapter in the Government Code provides information concerning the limitations placed on the Eminent Domain process. It then goes on to address other procedures like how the governing body of the municipality votes on and approves the condemnation before the petition is filed, as well as the authority provided to various public and private entities to use the Eminent Domain process to acquire the property.
The next and final chapter to look at is Chapter 251 of the Texas Local Government Code titled “Municipal Right of Eminent Domain.” This is mercifully a very short chapter with only two sections: Section 251.001 titled “Right of Eminent Domain” and Section 251.002 titled “Procedure.” The first of these two sections provides the information a municipality needs in order to determine whether the public use that the property is being sought for is a valid reason to exercise their right of Eminent Domain. The second section covering procedure simply refers you back to Chapter 21 of the Texas Property Code discussed above.
As one can see, the condemnation process in Texas is not the easiest process for even the most seasoned legal mind, but with the correct understanding of the three statutes discussed in this article, the process can be much less frustrating.
Please do not rely on this article as legal advice. We can tell you what the law is, but until we know the facts of your given situation, we cannot provide legal guidance. This website is for informational purposes and not for the purposes of providing legal advice. Information about our municipal law practice can be found here.