Dealing with Right of Way Agents in Negotiating Texas Easements
Are you dealing with a Right of Way Agent in negotiating the sale of an easement across your Texas property? If so, Attorney Philip Hundl has some information in this video to help educate you about the process and the negotiating tactics of some Right of Way agents. If you have questions, please call our office at 800-266-4870 to make an appointment with Mr. Hundl.
Summary of Right of Way Agents Negotiating Easements Video
– – Hello, my name is Philip Hundl. I’m an attorney with Wadler, Perches, Hundl, and Kerlick in Wharton County and Fort Bend County. My practice area of focus is on Land Litigation, specifically Condemnation. Today I’d like to talk to you about Right of Way Agents.
As a landowner, if you’re faced with condemnation, one of the first persons that you will talk with will be a Right of Way Agent. What is a Right of Way Agent? And what do they do?
A Right of Way Agent is a representative of the condemnor, or in this case let’s use a pipeline company as an example. The pipeline company would hire a company, a Right of Way Agent company, that would go out and do a lot of the leg work in the beginning, to go out, talk to landowners, and acquire easements for the particular pipeline.
So just as a oil and gas company may have land men that go out, or land lease men that go out and talk to mineral interest owners about getting, leases signed, that’s the same thing pipeline companies do with Right of Way Agents. They’ll hire a Right of Way Agent or a company of Right of Way Agents to go out and get these easements that they need for their future pipeline.
Lots of Right of Way Agents are great folks. I know many of them personally. Many are very ethical in the way they conduct their work. Others however, I’ve seen many tactics that are very questionable, and many tactics that they use that I really strongly suggest landowners be aware of, and not fall prey to.
One of the first things is the timing that they use. Oftentimes, the Right of Way Agents are real good about catching you at a vulnerable time, or at a time that’s inconvenient for you — lunchtime, dinnertime, or calling you late at night for example. They may call you at a time when you really don’t want to deal with the land, or the Right of Way Agent and, and so you may make a hasty decision. I’m sorry but the main tactic that the Right of Way Agent will use is to try to get you, the landowner, to make a hasty decision, or a decision under pressure.
Also the Right of Way Agents will often try to convince the landowners that you don’t need a lawyer. You don’t need a lawyer for this, don’t worry you know, you’re neighbor down the street, or your neighbor on the other tract of property, he signed the easement just like this, don’t worry it’ll be okay, you don’t need a lawyer, a lawyer’s expensive, it’s a waste of time.
I guess I always caution anyone when you’re asked to not hire an attorney, then I think red flags should go up. I’ve done other videos talking about how attorneys are compensated in most condemnation cases, and it’s normally on a contingency-fee basis. So, I always stress to my clients that the only way I get paid is if you get paid more. And so my fee would not be coming out of their original offer.
I think some Right of Way Agents will make lots of misrepresentations, or at least you know, bend the truth somewhat. One of the other tactics that they use is to tell you that you don’t need an appraisal or you don’t need to hire an appraiser. Which is partly true right?
If you’re a landowner faced with condemnation, you do not have to hire an appraiser. It may be in your best interest to hire an appraiser, because if you don’t, all that you can rely on is your own opinion of the value of your property and also the pipeline’s appraisal of the easement that they’re trying to take.
So if you understand that the pipeline’s appraiser is not your appraiser, but it’s the pipeline’s appraiser, then you should probably hire your own appraiser. And if you hire a lawyer, then the lawyer would coordinate that. So the Right of Way Agent’s saying that you don’t need an appraiser, or shouldn’t get an appraisal, I think is a misrepresentation.
Some other misrepresentations that I hear over and over, is Right of Way Agents misrepresenting the terms of the proposed easement. They will come to you and say, “Here’s the proposed easement from the pipeline”. They probably won’t give you a whole lot of time to review it, or they may even try to explain the terms. Sometimes their explanation is a misrepresentation.
If their explanation of the easement is “don’t worry, the pipeline company won’t follow through with certain contractual parts of the easement”, that’s a potential problem for you. If it’s in writing and it’s an easement that you’re signing, I think you need to be very aware of the terms that you’re signing and agreeing to.
Other point of misrepresentation — the Right of Way Agents oftentimes misrepresent the law and the facts. Sometimes Right of Way Agents want to speed up the deadlines in a condemnation proceeding. In other words, they like to misrepresent that you only have so many days in which to sign, if not, the pipeline company is going to sue you, they’re going to take you to court. That causes some fear in a lot of landowners’ minds, and so therefore, they unfortunately sign.
Sometimes they’ll tell you, “don’t worry, the easement can always be changed”, or the pipeline company will change the easement. Without a doubt, documents can be amended and changed, but once again, there’s never a guarantee that anyone will revise, or agree to amend a document that’s already been signed. And for that matter, an easement recorded. So be very wary of that.
Also there may be misrepresentations of locations of where the actual actual pipeline easement is on the property. That’s a big factor that sometimes landowners do mind where it’s going to go, and Right of Way Agents will tell you, “don’t worry, it’s going to go here, it’s not going to go and interfere with your outbuildings, barns or cattle pens” or whatnot.
These are critical factors that you need to be aware of, Right of Way Agents, as I said, many are great folks, many of them are ethical and they do not misrepresent facts or law, but I’ve run across too many that have. I’ve had too many landowners come to me after the fact, once they’ve signed an easement agreement, and want to change things, or want to add things that they had asked to be added, and that they thought were added, and they were not added. So that gets to be extremely frustrating for obviously the landowners, but for me as the lawyer trying to represent the landowner, so don’t fall prey to certain unethical tactics of Right of Way Agents.
Also, my experience has been, it’s oftentimes easier to get revisions, or additional terms in the easement agreements that are favorable to landowners when an attorney is involved. That’s when the landowner’s attorney is dealing with the pipeline’s attorney, and not the Right of Way Agent
Remember that you don’t have to act under pressure or threat. You have rights. You need to protect those rights. If you’d like assistance in protecting your rights in negotiating an easement, please call for an appointment with me at 800-266-4870.
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