‘Eminent Domain’ is everywhere in the news regarding everything from walls to trains to highways and public utilities. Understanding eminent domain and knowing what to do if your property is involved is important.
Eminent domain laws may vary from state to state, but the right of eminent domain is vested only in specific entities. A list of entities that have applied for or currently have eminent domain authority in Texas is on the Texas Comptroller website
Defining boundaries is the first step in the legal process of acquiring property through eminent domain in Texas. To do that, the condemning entity will seek the owner’s permission to enter property for a survey. Many times, the first inkling a landowner gets that his or her land may be under consideration for condemnation is a “right of entry” request from surveyors wanting to come onto their property.
While a property owner can refuse right of entry, Texas courts have held that granting the right of eminent domain includes the right to enter property for purposes of surveying to establish boundaries. Refusing entry usually will not stop surveying, nor will it stop the condemnation process. Texas law allows the condemning entity the right to obtain a restraining order preventing a landowner from interfering.
The landowner can, however, seek a “Right of Entry Permit” to limit rights and impose some protections for the landowner. Some common terms in a Right of Entry Permit, and more information on eminent domain, can be found on the Texas AgriLife Extension, Texas Agriculture Law Blog.
In any case, the first and most important step after receiving a “right of entry” request from surveyors is to consult with a property rights attorney for the state in which your property is located regarding ways to ensure that you and your property are adequately protected in condemnation proceedings.
Knowledge and understanding of eminent domain proceedings and what to do to protect your property is an important part of managing your forestland assets.