How Long Does the Condemnation Process Take in Texas?

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As a Texas property owner, receiving a condemnation notice can be confusing, especially if you are unaware of your legal options. Several factors can influence the timeline of condemnation matters, especially if you decide to challenge the matter in court. Talk to an attorney today to learn more.

Texas landowners enjoy some of the most thorough legal protections in the country. However, there are circumstances in which a government entity or utility company may enforce its Constitutional right to exercise eminent domain authority, enabling the entity to seize private land in exchange for compensation. Eminent domain projects must benefit the public in some way (i.e., expanding a highway, building a new public park, increasing access to water or gas lines, etc.), and the agency must provide “adequate compensation” in exchange for your land. When an entity wishes to exercise its eminent domain authority, it will initiate a legal process known as condemnation. As a Texas property owner, receiving a condemnation notice can be confusing, overwhelming, and frustrating, especially if you are unaware of your legal options. Your best bet is to contact a trusted and experienced Texas condemnation attorney to discuss your situation. Together, you can identify the most strategic path forward. Below is a brief overview of the condemnation process in Texas, as well as some steps you can take in response to a condemnation notice.

Understanding the Condemnation Process in Texas

First, it’s essential to recognize that Texas landowners enjoy several legal rights and protections. Texas has outlined these rights in its Landowner’s Bill of Rights, which outlines the steps of a typical condemnation matter and what property owners can do in response. When an entity wishes to exercise its eminent domain power, it must send you a condemnation notice informing you of its intention. This letter will include an offer the entity is prepared to pay you in exchange for your property. However, these offers often fall far below the current and future value of your property. Unfortunately, many landowners interpret these notices as final and indisputable—but every Texas landowner has the right to hire an independent appraiser to determine a more comprehensive and accurate value of your property. You also have the right to move the matter to a hearing before a court-appointed panel of special commissioners who will determine the amount of compensation the entity must pay you in exchange for seizing your property. If you are not satisfied with the special commissioners’ award, you can appeal to the District Court and demand a trial by a jury.

How to Contest a Condemnation Matter

Many Texas property owners simply accept the initial offer, believing that they have no say in the matter. However, there are several steps you can take to question the condemning entity’s authority, investigate the validity of the proposed project, or negotiate with the condemning entity for more money. Below are just a few of the legal options available to Texas landowners who receive a condemnation notice.

Challenging an Entity’s Right to Condemn Property

You can work with a knowledgeable Texas condemnation lawyer to file a motion to dismiss the condemnation proceeding. For instance, you could question whether the condemning entity has the authority to exercise eminent domain power. While several government entities have already established their eminent domain authority (i.e., federal, state, and municipal departments of transportation, departments of water and power, etc.), other entities must demonstrate that they qualify for eminent domain authority. Your attorney can help you navigate this process, as you may be able to show that the entity fails to meet the criteria required to condemn land.

Pushing Back Against an Entity’s Proposed Project

Even if the condemning entity has eminent domain power, the proposed project may fail to meet the criteria of “public use.” While projects like roadway expansion, public utility improvements, and the construction of parks and schools benefiting the public may meet this definition, proposed projects that involve tax revenue or economic development may not. Your attorney can assess the details of the case and help you identify the most strategic path forward.

Seeking “Adequate” Compensation

Texas requires condemning entities to provide “adequate” compensation to landowners affected by their projects. The term “adequate compensation” typically means, for the portion of the property being taken, its market value determined by its highest and best use, not its current use. Adequate compensation also includes payment for all damages to the remaining property that is not taken. Those damages often involve loss of access to a public road, drainage issues, and a host of other problems that result from the project. It’s important to recognize that you do not have to accept the initial offer—your attorney can help you find an independent condemnation appraiser to obtain a more comprehensive valuation of your property. You can use this information to negotiate for more money in exchange for your property.

Trusted Legal Guidance During a Challenging Process

Eminent domain matters tend to be complex. From the moment you receive a condemnation notice, you may wonder how long you have until this matter is settled. Several factors can influence the timeline of condemnation matters, especially if you decide to challenge the matter in court. In most cases, the trial will be set for 12 to 18 months after the complaint is filed. However, you may be able to settle the case before the trial begins. Contact a seasoned Texas condemnation attorney to get a more accurate estimate of how long this matter will take to resolve.


If you need help with condemnation or eminent domain matters, the dedicated legal team at Sewell Sewell Beard, LLC, is here to help. Call our Alabama office at (205) 544-2350 or our Texas office at (972) 777-5390 to get started.