Pipeline Condemnation and Eminent Domain Process in Texas
For you, the Texas landowner or rancher contacted by a landman or right-of-way agent for a pipeline company, gas utility, or common carrier (the "condemnor") that wants to take your private property from you. Always consult an eminent domain attorney the moment you are contacted by a landman/agent.
Step 1: You're contacted by a landman or right-of-way agentA landman or right-of-way agent will contact you by mail, email, or oftentimes will approach you, the landowner, in person. He will attempt to charm and flatter you in an effort to get you to agree to give him and his employer your land, which his employer (the condemning pipeline company, gas utility, or other "common carrier") want to use for their project. Typically, at some point they'll ask if they can come onto your land to take pictures, survey, or obtain other data on your property. Even as early as this step in the process, always consult an eminent domain and condemnation attorney -- these landmen and condemning companies will almost never have your best interests in mind, and too often will "lowball" you the whole way through. Regardless, if you and the landman negotiate back and forth, and you don't agree to the terms the landman is presenting to you, then step 2 occurs.
Step 2: Initial OfferThe landman or agent for the will send you an official written initial offer, which starts the clock for when they can file a condemnation petition against you. The initial offer will typically be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, along with a proposed easement agreement and memorandum, an IRS W-9 form, and general procedural information made publicly available by the State of Texas. If you don't agree to the terms of the initial offer and easement agreement within 30 days after you received the initial offer, step 3 occurs.
Step 3: Final OfferAt least 30 days after you receive the initial offer, the landman's employer, or the "condemnor" * that is, the pipeline company, gas utility, or other common carrier that wants to condemn your land * will send you an official final offer letter that offers a monetary amount, and which must also be accompanied by a formal appraisal report with an appraised value of the property interest the condemnor wants to take from you. The final offer cannot be less than the appraised value of the property interest in the appraisal report. Further, it's supposed to include a calculation of damage to the value of the remainder of your property. However, they almost never include any value for damage to the rest of your property. If you don't agree to the terms of the final offer within 14 days after you received the final offer, then step 4 occurs.
Step 4: CondemnationAt any time after 14 days from the date you received condemnor's final offer, the condemnor may file a condemnation petition in the county court where your land is. This officially begins the administrative process of condemnation. The court will appoint three commissioners made up of county landowners who will ultimately hear evidence of value for the property interest the condemnor seeks to take from you. Once the commissioners decide on value, the condemnor must pay that amount into the registry of the court, and take possession of your land.
While there are more steps that could happen after this step, those later steps of the process involve a different phase of the condemnation process -- namely, the litigation phase.