McFarland PLLC

Your Property, Our Focus

When condemnation affects churches or other nonprofits

| Jun 24, 2021 | Eminent Domain |

A new church or congregation often starts because the previous faith community breaks into several groups or a new minister starts to develop a following. Nonprofit organizations often start when someone notices an unmet need in the community.  

Finding the right premises for a church or other nonprofit organization is one of the most important aspects of building a successful fellowship or group of volunteers. Being in a location that is easily accessible and central to your membership is key to their ongoing involvement with the church or not-for-profit organization.  

Unfortunately, central locations are desirable not just to you but also to developers working on major projects. Even highway expansions or the construction of new roads could affect existing structures. What would a planned project near your church mean for your organization? 

The state might condemn your property

In some states, condemnation is a process initiated based on the condition of an existing property. A structure too unsafe to stand could wind up condemned and the owners ordered to exclude visitors or tear the structure down.  

In Texas, condemnation is part of eminent domain proceedings. Eminent domain is the legal right of government authorities to force the sale of individual properties for the good of the greater community. Often, properties needed for such projects get sold independently after the owner negotiates a fair sale. Others demand a price too high to be reasonable or simply refuse to sell at all, which could stall the planned project.   

Essentially, if the state condemns your property, they want to facilitate its sale to a developer for civic use. Usually, condemnation only occurs if the property owner has already rejected a reasonable, fair market value offer for purchase.  

You may be able to push for more compensation

In rare cases, property owners may be in a position to challenge the condemnation of their commercial property in court. Other times, what they need is help negotiating to get a reasonable amount of compensation for their property.  

You should receive a fair market value offer, and you may want to consult a real estate professional to generate an estimate of the value of the property so that you can go into any negotiations well informed. Understanding the basics of how eminent domain could affect your church or nonprofit can help you fight back so that the proceedings don’t destroy your organization.