Eminent Domain – the government and you

Can the government (Texas Department of Transportation, your City, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, or the Federal Government) take my property and make me move?

The answer in a nutshell is “yes!” By exercising Eminent Domain.

There are protections for you though under the Federal Uniform Act and the state legislature.  Thanks to the Bill of Rights the government cannot take your property without paying you “just compensation” and the compensation is determined by a local real estate appraiser and reviewed by yet another real estate appraiser.

The government entity must make you an offer based on the review appraiser’s opinion of value and you have the right to have the property appraised to determine if the offer is fair.  You can make a counter offer to try to settle the claim.

If you do not come to terms you have the right to a hearing where you can present your opinion of the value of the property being taken by the government through eminent domain and damages you feel are not being considered.  The Viewers will be appointed and will listen to all the opinions of value and often will visit the real estate in question to gain perspective before offering an opinion.

You can also appeal the value determined by the Viewers and have your case heard in a court in front of a judge or a jury.  All of this is to determine the value, however, not to decide if the government can actually take the property.

If you do not come to an agreement to sign a deed, the government will deposit the money decided by the hearings into the County Recorder’s office and will take the property through eminent domain using a legal process known as condemnation to begin construction of the planned project.  You can petition the Court to release the deposited funds to you.

The reason the government takes your property has to be for a public use.  If the property is not used for the reason intended you have the right to buy it back.

In defense of the government’s right of eminent domain without this law there might not be roads through your neighborhood, interstate highways, commuter or heavy rail, or even utility lines to serve your home.  As our needs for public transportation continue to increase and the demand for more highways to decrease traffic tie ups continue to build these government rights are essential.

The question is “how much money should you be paid?”  If this is a concern you might want to consult your attorney for advice and have an appraisal written to help your decision.