Eminent domain is the power of any governmental body or utility to acquire private property for a valid public purpose. The most common uses for the taken property are roads and public utilities, such as pipelines and sewer systems. If you receive a condemnation notice, should you seek out a lawyer?
You are not required by law to have one, and you could attempt to handle the situation on your own. However, this probably would not be a good idea. The average person does not fully comprehend eminent domain laws, and condemning parties may offer little compensation for your land. But if you work with an eminent domain attorney in Texas, a state where condemnation is frequent, you would have a professional defending your best interest.
Can an Attorney Help You Get More Money in the Eminent Domain Process?
If your property is subject to condemnation, understand that you have legal rights—you will receive “just compensation” for the portion taken. But how do you know what “just compensation” means and whether it’s fair or not?
An experienced eminent domain attorney in Texas will help you understand the extent of your rights as owner of the soon-to-be acquired land. They will evaluate the offered compensation. If it isn’t sufficient, you can challenge the initial offer and negotiate for more.
Condemnors hire a reputable appraiser to assess property value, but they choose ones that offer minimal compensation. So when it’s time to present their offer, they are acquiring the property at a bargain. But if you have an attorney, you properly calculate your damages, even if you lack expertise in land valuation.
Should You Get Just Any Lawyer?
It’s best to get an eminent domain attorney in Texas instead of hiring just any lawyer. Professionals specialized in these cases have experience handling issues similar to yours, allowing them to anticipate the condemning authority’s next move. Then, if your case goes to trial, they can confidently present your side to the judge and jury.
An expert attorney in eminent domain law can give you a qualified opinion on the reasonableness of offered compensation; any other lawyer cannot. The former will choose an appraiser applicable to your circumstance.
To protect your rights, it’s in your best interests to seek legal counsel as early in the process as possible or before reaching any agreement with the condemning authority.