Eminent Domain: Texas Landholder’s Bill of Rights
Attorney General Greg Abbott
Since Stephen F. Austin first helped settlers
establish new roots west of the Sabine River, Texas has always been a
place that respects private property rights. With three times more
privately owned land than any other state, Texas leads the nation in
private property ownership. From the Panhandle to the Piney Woods,
Texas is a place where citizens – not the government – own the land.
person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or
property, without due process of law; nor shall private
property be taken for public use, without just
Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
The distinction matters because private
landownership lies at the heart of our democratic, free-market system.
Recognizing this important principle, President William Howard Taft
once observed, “Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is
the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution.”
To ensure that Texas landowners are informed
about their rights as private property owners, the state Legislature
asked my office to draft a Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights. As
Attorney General, I can neither make new laws nor change existing law;
the Texas Legislature has that exclusive authority. The ultimate goal
of the Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights is to make existing laws
accessible by explaining complicated legal concepts in a manner that
can be easily understood.
The central focus of the Texas Landowner’s Bill
of Rights is eminent domain. Although both the U.S. and Texas
Constitutions both contain protections for property owners, some
governmental and private entities have the ability to take private
property for public use under certain circumstances.
For example, when a local power company needs to
build a new power line, it can acquire private land to house
infrastructure that serves the public interest. But when even the most
narrow sliver of land is taken for a public purpose, the landowner
must be adequately compensated for their property.
Under Texas law, eminent domain is the legal
authority to take private property for public use. The takings process
itself is called condemnation. Effective February 1, 2008, Texas
property cannot be taken unless the condemning authority first
provides the Landowner’s Bill of Rights to the affected property’s
owners. All rights outlined in this document apply every time any
entity uses eminent domain to take a Texas landowner’s private
The Texas Landowner’s Bill
of Rights consists of 10 basic principles:
1. You are entitled to receive adequate compensation if your
property is taken for a public use.
2. Your property can only be taken for a public use.
3. Your property can only be taken by a governmental entity
or private entity authorized by law to do so.
4. The entity that wants to take your property must notify
you about its interest in taking your property.
5. The entity proposing to take your property must provide
you with an assessment of the adequate compensation for your
6. The entity proposing to take your property must make a
good faith offer to buy the property before it files a lawsuit
to condemn the property.
7. You may hire an appraiser or other professional to
determine the value of your property or to assist you in any
8. You may hire an attorney to negotiate with the condemning
entity and to represent you in any legal proceedings involving
9. Before your property is condemned, you are entitled to a
hearing before a court-appointed panel that includes three
10. If you are unsatisfied with the compensation awarded by
the special commissioners, or if you question whether the taking
of your property was proper, you have the right to a trial by
The Texas Landowner’s Bill of Rights, along with
an explanation of the condemnation process, is available at
Texans should always consult the Texas
Landowner’s Bill of Rights when their property faces condemnation. In
a state whose citizens have a storied relationship with the land,
where 95% of the property is privately owned, it is critical that
residents know and understand their legal rights as private property