In this video, Attorney Philip Hundl describes Step 1B 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 1B of the Texas Land Condemnation Process
Hi, Phil Hundl here. We’re continuing with our series on the Texas land condemnation steps. I want to help you know more about each step and be aware of the things you can do as a landowner to improve the process for you.
So we’re at Step 1B in the condemnation process timeline. A right-of-way agent has contacted you. The process may vary a little depending on whether it’s a power line, pipeline, road expansion, or some other type of project.
The Right-of-Way Agent Will Ask for Access to Your Property
But one of the things that right-of-way agent is going to be asking is whether they can have temporary access to do initial surveying on your property and other inspections or surveys. What does that mean?
For pipelines, for example, they’ll often need to enter the property to conduct further civil engineering or civil surveying to finalize a potential plat or route of the pipeline. If there are bodies of water on the property, they may also need to do some archeological studies. They often need to do some environmental studies and endangered species studies, and they will ask for that type of access. If you would rather not have them access your property to do these initial surveys, you can say that you’re not interested.
Once again, some of your initial requests to the right-of-way agent should be to provide more information about this project. Ask the right-of-way agent what the condemnor intends to do on your property. Then you can tell the right-of-way agent that you don’t want the project on your property, and they can go elsewhere.
You can tell the right-of-way agent if you have a preferred route for the power line or the pipeline. Voice your opinion on that. Express that to the right-of-way agents.
If possible, suggest your preferred route on their diagram or aerial map of the route. If you have a different preferred route that you would like this project to take, then let them know as soon as possible. Once again, this is your initial thought of where you want this pipeline if it has to be on my property.
Most often, landowners don’t want the project on their land. So go away! That’s fine. However, if it’s going to have to be on your property no matter what, then start looking at these other potential routes.
I recommend that you get a lawyer involved at this point. Your lawyer can help you express your desires about preferred routes.
Get Information About Possible Above Ground Appurtenances in Step 1B
Getting better information about what the condemnor intends to do on your property is extremely important in Step 1B. Sometimes people will expect that if the project is a pipeline, it will be underneath the ground. But it may or may not be completely underground on your property. The pipeline company may need a valve site, they may want an access road, or they may want a larger surface site. You never know. So getting that additional information from the right-of-way agent is very important.
Often the right-of-way agents won’t have that information because they’re only given limited information as well. But that’s information that we need as soon as possible to evaluate the project’s impact on your property.
Getting back to temporary access. At some point, if you’re not willing to allow the condemnor on your property, then they will often file an application for a temporary restraining order. The condemnor is asking the judge to give an order allowing the condemnor on your property even though you aren’t giving consent. And that often happens.
In some recent pipeline projects, the pipeline company isn’t waiting to get consent from the landowner. They’re just going forward with asking the court to give them access.
A Temporary Restraining Order Could Give the Condemnor Broad Access to Your Land
If the court issues a temporary restraining order, the court will probably give the pipeline company or power line company broad access to your property. So to limit the access to just what they need, for the amount of time they need, where they need to go on your property, most of the time, landowners agree to limited temporary access agreements. And that way, both sides are getting what they need. The landowners place limitations on the condemnor, and the condemnor can access the property under these constraints for a limited timeframe.
Perhaps the access will be for only a week or two weeks or a month. Maybe access will be limited to certain hours or the days of the week, and not on the weekends. I’ve had clients who want access on the weekends. Whatever works best for the landowner. If the landowner wants to be present, those are also things that we ask for.
Maybe the landowner’s going to let the survey crews in and be there during their work. Perhaps the landowner’s going to let the crews in the first time, and then the condemnor is going to put its own combination lock interlocked with the other locks. And that way they can come and go without the landowner having to be there.
It depends on what the landowner needs and wants. We try to get those things in the limited temporary access agreement. Otherwise, a court may grant a very broad temporary restraining order that potentially turns into a temporary injunction.
So hopefully, that’s helpful. Step 1B is what we call this section, and we’ll move on to the next step.
Hire an Attorney Who Is Experienced in Eminent Domain and Condemnation
Also, when you’re in this Step 1B stage, you should be considering hiring an attorney who focuses on these types of cases. 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.
Call 800-266-4870 for a meeting with Attorney Philip Hundl. We can arrange appointments in person, online or by phone. You can also send us an email by clicking the button below.