Frequently Asked Questions About Eminent Domain
When it comes to eminent domain and condemnation, at The Law Offices of Jones & Westrom, we strive to keep our clients informed on every step of the process. When clients come to our office, we find that they often have similar questions. To learn more about eminent domain before you visit us, please review the frequently asked questions below.
To set up a free initial consultation with an experienced lawyer in the Denton, Texas, area, contact our office online or by calling 940-383-1619.
1. What is eminent domain?
Eminent domain is the right of the government to take or acquire private property for a public use. The state legislature has vested the power of eminent domain in non-governmental or quasi-governmental entities that provide public services, such as electricity, natural gas and water.
2. What is condemnation?
Condemnation is the legal process through which a government takes or acquires private property under its power of eminent domain. If negotiations with the property owner are unsuccessful, the government or entity exercising the power of eminent domain will file a civil lawsuit to acquire the property through a condemnation proceeding and trial, if necessary.
3. What are our my rights and defenses to the taking of my property?
The taking must be for a public use and must be necessary. The U.S. Constitution and Texas Constitution require that the government or entity exercising the power of eminent domain to offer the property owner just compensation for the taking. Just compensation is determine by the fair market value of the property being acquired and the damages, if any, to the remainder property. A property owner is entitled to contest the government's offer of just compensation through negotiations, special commissioners' hearings and jury trial.
4. How do you determine just compensation for the taking of my property?
You are entitled to fair market value for the property being acquired, and the damages or diminution in value to your remaining property, if any. Fair market value is defined, in part, as what a willing seller, not obligated to sell, would accept for the property and what a willing buyer, not obligated to buy, would pay for the property. Your current use of the property may not be the appropriate measure for fair market value. You are entitled to a valuation that includes the "highest and best use" of your property.
5. What if I cannot afford an attorney?
We have creative and flexible fee arrangements set up so that you do not have to pay attorneys fees unless we recover more money than what the condemning authority is offering you. Our standard fee arrangements do not include in the calculation of fees the amount of money you were offered prior to retaining our firm.