In this video, Attorney Philip Hundl describes Step 1A of his timeline of the Texas Land Condemnation Process. You can arrange a meeting with Philip by calling or texting 800-266-4870. We can arrange a meeting in person, online or by phone.
Summary of Step 1A of the Texas Land Condemnation Process
Hi, I’m Phil Hundl. I introduced this series of Texas Land Condemnation Process videos, breaking it down and helping you, the landowner, better understand each step of the Texas Land Condemnation Process. We’re going to jump right into it. We will talk about step one, and I’ve broken down step 1 into steps 1A and 1B because there can be many different parts.
And so, by no means is my condemnation timeline the only representation. Other lawyers practicing eminent domain and representing landowners may have different timelines and steps, and that’s okay. But this will be a general timeline we’ll use.
Your First Contact Is a Right-of-Way Agent
So Step 1 is you, the landowner, are approached. A right-of-way agent contacts you. This initial contact is out of the blue. You don’t know who this person is, what they’re doing, who they represent. And so let’s talk briefly about that.
That initial contact can often be a phone call. It’s probably going to be a letter from the right-of-way agent. There are lots of right-of-way acquisition companies throughout the state of Texas. Some are nationwide companies, and some are local. But they’ll have a right-of-way acquisition agent.
It’s like any project. It gets delegated to different people. This portion of the initial phase of the potential condemnation case is delegated to a right-of-way acquisition company. We call the right-of-way agents ROW agents.
The ROW agent will contact you to confirm your contact information. They want to ensure they send the right information to the right person. Do you still own this land? Is there anybody else that owns it? They’ll be asking you some of those questions.
Along with that letter, there will be a Landowner Bill of Rights. And that’s something that the condemnor wants to send to you. The Landowner Bill of Rights is a publication of the State of Texas that describes your rights as a landowner.
And often, the ROW agents flip it around and say that the condemnors have these rights to take what we’re planning to take from you. That is the feeling that many landowners sense when the right-of-way acquisition agent talks about the Landowner Bill of Rights.
As a Landowner, Collect as Much Project Information as Possible
So what should you as a landowner do at this step in the condemnation process? You should get as much information as possible from the right-of-way agent because you need it. You need to know who the condemnor is.
And often, the identity of the condemnor needs to be clarified because these condemnors will have multiple entities. It’s one thing if it’s TxDOT — that’s pretty clear.
But if it’s a pipeline company, it may have multiple entities. For example, Kinder Morgan might build a pipeline through an entity named Kinder Morgan Tejas. Those are similar names. But sometimes, it’s not as clear with these different pipeline companies, especially the smaller ones.
Find out what kind of project it is. If the condemnor is a pipeline company, you should ask the right-of-way agent to provide information about that pipeline project. Ask for a T4 permit number from the Texas Railroad Commission. Has the Railroad Commission approved their project?
If it’s a power line project, is there a cause number from the PUC, the Public Utility Commission of Texas? Is there a certificate of convenience and necessity, the CCN? Has it been approved?
If it’s TxDOT or a county with a road expansion, we’re asking more about that project. With TxDOT, the project will be on their website, most likely. They may have had public meetings to provide information about the project. And there’ll be minutes from those meetings.
If it’s a county road project, there should be information in the minutes of Commissioners’ Court meetings. If a municipal water district is doing the project, there should be some minutes of those meetings. More than anything, you’re asking for more details about the project. In Step 1B, we’ll discuss what you should and can be asking.
Hire an Attorney Who Is Experienced in Eminent Domain and Condemnation
Also, when you’re in this initial stage, step one, you should be considering hiring an attorney who focuses on these types of cases. So it’s not just any attorney because there are attorneys who handle family law cases, criminal cases, and other types of civil litigation. Not all attorneys have experience handling eminent domain or condemnation cases. So begin looking for an attorney with that experience so that he or she can help you navigate the process as early as possible.
We’ll discuss limited temporary access agreements in the Step 1B video. So with that, we’ll move on to the next step.