"Eminent domain" refers to the government’s legal authority to force a private landowner to sell their property for public use. “Condemnation” is the act of a governmental entity exercising their eminent domain authority.
Filing a Condemnation Petition
If an agreement on price cannot be reached, the condemning authority must then file a petition for condemnation per Section 21.012 of the Texas Property Code. The condemning entity must also send the landowner a copy of the “Landowner’s Bill of Rights” prepared by Office of the Attorney General. Condemnation proceedings are initiated when the condemning entity files a condemnation petition. The Texas Property Code requires that the condemnation petition contain the following six (6) elements in order to validly authorize condemnation proceedings:
- A description of the property
- A specific statement of the intended use of the property by the condemning entity
- A list of the names of all the owners of the property
- A statement of the inability of the condemning entity and the landowner to agree on a price for the property
- A statement confirming that the “Landowner’s Bill of Rights” has been provided to the property owners
- A statement that a bona fide offer has been made
Once a condemnation petition is filed, the judge must appoint three disinterested real property owners who reside in the county to serve as special commissioners. The commissioners assess the damages (appropriate compensation) to be paid for the condemned property. The commissioners are given powers similar to those conferred upon a court and are required to administer fair and equal justice between the landowner and condemning entity. Once appointed, the commissioners must schedule a hearing for the parties. A written notice informing the parties of the time and place of the hearing must be given at least 20 days prior to the hearing.
Notice is accomplished by:
- Delivering a copy of the notice to a party, the party’s agent, or to the party’s attorney;
- Delivering a copy to a party's representative if the property belongs to a deceased’s estate, a minor or an otherwise legally disabled person, and that person or estate has a legal representative; or
- Service by publication if the property belongs to a non-resident and such resident has not been personally served when the owner is unknown or if the owner of the property is avoiding service of process.
Once proper notice has been served upon all potential parties, the special commissioners may convene a hearing and consider the evidence presented by each party. However, the special commissioners’ hearing is an administrative proceeding, and they have no authority to rule on questions of law. The special commissioners are to assess damages fairly and impartially as governed by Sections 21.041 and 21.042 of the Texas Property Code.
Cost of Condemnation Proceeding
The special commissioners determine the cost of the condemnation proceeding, as outlined by Section 21.047 of the Property Code.
The appellant must file their objections to the special commissioners’ award with the appropriate court within the time prescribed by Section 21.018 of the Property Code.