Condemnation proceedings are unfortunately a regular occurrence in Texas. Government agencies and private parties often seek to condemn private property for development or utility projects. Many property owners first learn of the condemnation proceedings when they receive a “right of entry” request to allow surveyors onto the land. In order to condemn property, the condemning authority must first clearly identify the location and boundary lines of the property.
For landowners, the thought of someone entering their land to further condemnation proceedings is incredibly stressful. In these cases, landowners want to know: “Can someone survey my property without my permission?”
When Can Someone Survey My Property Without My Permission?
In many states, condemning authorities can survey someone’s property without permission. Fortunately, in Texas, the laws are different and grant more protection to property owners. Texas eminent domain statutes do not include any right of entry. In other words, condemning authorities must request the landowner’s permission to enter the land to conduct a survey.
Exactly what this request looks like can differ depending on who the condemning authority is. For example, in eminent domain cases involving the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), TxDOT will send the property owner a formal “Request for Right of Entry for Land Surveying” letter.
The property owner has the right to refuse this request. But note that a refusal does not usually stop the survey from occurring or the condemnation process from proceeding. Under Texas law, the condemning authority can obtain a temporary or permanent restraining order that prevents the property owner from impeding the survey.
Some landowners are not as concerned about someone simply surveying their land. Rather, they worry about the condemning authority’s agents causing damage to the property. The Texas courts have addressed these types of landowner concerns in several cases. For example, in Coastal Marine Serv. v. City of Port Neches, Coastal owned 17 acres of land within the city. The city directed its staff to acquire this property for park purposes using the power of eminent domain, if necessary. The city appraised the property and made an offer to purchase the property before starting condemnation proceedings.
But the parties could not agree on the sales price. Coastal agreed to allow the city to conduct a lineal survey (a method that involves using survey equipment to measure the distance between two points on land). But Coastal did not agree to the city conducting more invasive environmental testing. The Court, however, held that a condemning authority with the power of eminent domain has the legal right to access and survey a property as needed to complete its planned project, in this case allowing environmental testing.
Your Options if You Receive a Survey Request
If you receive a request to survey your property, it is important to contact an experienced Texas eminent domain lawyer. Your lawyer can first determine whether the party has the right to survey your land (i.e., acting under the power of eminent domain) and ensure that your interests are protected.
If the condemning authority has the right to survey your land, your lawyer can help negotiate the terms under a right of entry permit — for example, by only allowing access during a mutually agreeable time or prohibiting any actions that can cause damage to the land such as cutting or removing fences.
If you or someone you know is facing a condemnation action in Texas, the experienced legal team at the Padua Law Firm can help you to navigate the condemnation process and ensure that your rights are protected. Contact one of our dedicated Texas eminent domain lawyers today to discuss your case.