What is “eminent domain”?

"Eminent domain" is a governmental entity’s legal authority to take private property for public use. When this occurs, the governmental entity must pay the landowner fair value (or "just compensation") for their property. The US. Constitution and the Texas Constitution restrict the government's power of eminent domain. Governmental entities have eminent domain authority over properties that are located both inside and outside their tax jurisdiction. The State’s eminent domain authority is delegated by specific statutes to state agencies, political subdivisions (i.e. cities, counties and special districts) and even some private entities. An entity with eminent domain authority to initiate condemnation proceedings may be referred to as condemning authority, condemning entity or condemnor.

State and local governments may acquire property for many reasons. If the government needs a landowner’s private property for a public use and the landowner refuses to sell, then Texas law allows the government to take the property through a condemnation proceeding by exercising the power of eminent domain. In addition to governmental bodies, some private entities have condemnation authority – but only for a public purpose. An example is a public utility which provides services to the public. 

Note: To discussion, "government" may be used to refer to all of these entities that have eminent domain authority.