Eminent Domain Condemnation
The Austin law firm of Womack McClish Wall & Foster, P.C. focuses on defending landowners' rights, representing clients throughout rural and urban Texas in eminent domain and condemnation proceedings. Our lawyers have successfully helped clients ranging from large businesses to individual landowners in obtaining higher compensation for their property during condemnation and eminent domain proceedings, including government negotiations, administrative proceedings, civil jury trials, appeals, mediations, and arbitrations.
- The Power to Take Land for Public Use
Eminent domain is the power of the government to take the private property of citizens, including businesses, for public use. Entities which may exercise the power of eminent domain include the U.S. government, the state of Texas, and state municipalities such as counties, cities, and water districts, as well as certain designated third parties exercising public functions, such as utility and power companies. The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution limits the government's power of eminent domain by requiring that the taking be for "public use" and that the government provide the property owner "just compensation." Common public uses in Texas include highways, drainage projects, pipelines, water treatment plants, electric transmission lines, schools, parking lots, and renewable energy zones.
- Types of Takings
A taking can be either physical or regulatory. A physical taking involves physical invasion or seizure of the land or a part of the land. A regulatory taking, sometimes called "inverse condemnation," involves government regulation of the land that goes beyond its constitutional power to regulate, resulting in a taking of the property, or damage to the property, without just compensation. In both cases, the government's taking of the land may affect a person's property in its entirety (in fee simple absolute), a portion of the property (a partial taking), or effectively take an easement (a right of way or use over the property).
- Just Compensation
Just compensation is generally determined by the market value of the property being taken, including its current use as well as its highest and best economic use. Where the government takes only part of the land or an easement, market value will also take into consideration any depreciation or increase in the value of the remaining property. In addition, any special use of the land by the property owner must also be taken into account when awarding market value for the property. To learn more, please see our frequently asked questions page.
- Exercising the Right of Eminent Domain
Condemnation is the process by which the government exercises its right of eminent domain. Businesses and individual landowners alike are all subject to the government's power to condemn their property for public use.
- Landowners' Rights
When the government initiates condemnation proceedings, landowners have numerous options available to them, including the right to legal representation, the right to challenge the government's initial price offer, the right to have the issue of market value heard before a panel of court-appointed Special Commissioners, and the right to have the Special Commissioners' decision reviewed by a court, or even a jury. Experienced legal counsel is a valuable asset during the condemnation process, as the government has a right to take possession of your land once you agree to a price during negotiations or after the Special Commissioners issue an award and the government deposits the money.
- Property Valuation
Presenting adequate evidence of the value of your property is essential to obtaining the highest possible compensation, and successfully presenting this evidence requires both an understanding of the legal issues that underlie the valuation process and experience in opposing the government in this type of proceeding. Typically, clients with experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel receive higher compensation for their property than unrepresented parties. To learn more, see our page about the condemnation process.
The lawyers at Womack McClish Wall & Foster, P.C. are experts in eminent domain and condemnation matters and have successfully represented clients large and small in every stage of the process. We offer services both on a contingency fee basis or at hourly billable rates. Call Womack McClish Wall & Foster, P.C. at (512) 474-9875 for a free initial consultation.