Chapter 5: Right of Way Property AcquisitionAnchor: #i1004144
Section 1: Right of Way Property Acquisition Policies and ProceduresAnchor: #i1004149
Basic Acquisition Responsibilities (for State)
TxDOT is responsible for acquiring real property in accordance with the provisions of Title III of the Uniform Act and Federal regulations which are based on Title III. Negotiations for right of way conducted by TxDOT personnel, or others on TxDOT’s behalf, are subject to this law and these regulations. The policies and procedures set forth in the following sections are applicable to all right of way acquired for the State directly by or for TxDOT.
The following requirements of Title III of the Uniform Act are TxDOT policy:
- Make every reasonable effort to acquire right of way parcels expeditiously by negotiation.
- Make reasonable effort to contact the property owner and
- the offer to purchase the property, including the appraisal basis for the offer to purchase, and
- real property acquisition policies and procedures.
- Give each property owner reasonable opportunity to consider TxDOT's written offer and present material relevant to property value determination. Give appropriate consideration to the property owner's position.
- No property owner is required to surrender possession of property before payment of the agreed purchase price or deposit is made in the court registry. In some cases, possession may be obtained through a “Possession and Use Agreement”.
- Advise the property owner while making the offer, if he was not informed in the informational notice, of his eligibility for reimbursement of incidental expenses.
- Include in the appraisal and acquisition process all real property improvements located on right of way parcels, whether owned by landowners or lessees.
- Never take coercive action to compel agreement on property value. Do not advance the date of condemnation, defer negotiations or condemnation, or delay deposit of funds with the court to induce an agreement.
- TxDOT representatives will handle all negotiations. The same person may appraise and negotiate a parcel when the approved value is $10,000 or less. The review appraiser may not negotiate a parcel on which he reviewed a formal appraisal report regardless of the value.
- No person lawfully occupying real property will be required to move from his home, farm, or business location without at least 90 days written notice. Department staff are responsible to ensure that all such written notices are provided. Procedures for notification are in Notices and Contacts With Displacees.
- All property acquisition procedures must be applied uniformly without regard to race, color, age, religion, sex, national origin, or handicap.
The policy of the Texas Department of Transportation is to acquire right of way and to administer related functions in such manner that no person is excluded from participating in, denied the benefits of, or otherwise subjected to discrimination under any program or activity on the basis of race, color, age, religion, sex, national origin, or handicap. This policy is in conformity with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Federal regulations. Title VI complaints (i.e., complaints of discrimination in any manner as set out above), if any, are to be processed through the appropriate District Engineer to the Director of Right of Way, with a copy to the local designated Civil Rights Coordinator. The Director of Right of Way then forwards such complaint to the Department’s Office of Civil Rights.
Although Federal regulations do not require personal contact with a property owner by a negotiator, personal contact is TxDOT's standard procedure. However, Section 21.0111 of the Texas Property Code requires the initial offer letter to be sent via certified mail, return receipt requested. Thus, all negotiations should be initiated by mailing the owner (in state or out of state) the following items:
- An offer letter containing required provisions.
- A copy of all appraisal reports produced or acquired by TxDOT relating specifically to the owner's property and prepared in the 10 years preceding the date of the offer.
- A copy of the current version of the Landowner's Bill of Rights (see Landowner’s Bill of Rights discussion later in this chapter).
- An "acknowledgement of receipt of appraisal" form. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope.
Follow negotiations initiated by mail with a timely telephone call to the owner. Further contact depends on the owner's response during initial telephone contact, but personal contact must be made when requested by the owner.
The primary goal is establishment of a favorable relation and good communication. In all cases, document the reason for not following up a written offer through personal contact.
Where multiple owners reside within Texas, one owner may live on the property, live nearby, or manage the property for all concerned. In such cases, personal contact with this one owner is sufficient. However, advise all owners, in writing, of the offer. To document compliance in the acquisition files, include negotiation reports on personal contacts made by Department personnel.Anchor: #i1004288
Basic Acquisition Responsibilities (for LPA)
In general, follow similar procedures as for TxDOT.
- With State Participation: The acquisition of right of way will be the responsibility of the LPA with participation by the State as specified by the law and agreed upon in the contractual agreement. The LPA shall obtain a title policy. The State's payment for title company services includes the cost of closing services. The benefits of the Relocation Assistance Program will be administered by the State, unless otherwise stated in the agreement with the LPA (see Right of Way Manual Vol.3 - Relocation Assistance). Property owner's incidental costs to transfer property to the State may be reimbursed by the State.
- Without State Participation on or off the State Highway System: Since acquisition is the responsibility of the LPA, the LPA may choose to purchase a title insurance policy. However, the LPA will be responsible for providing clear title to the acquired property. The State will administer the benefits of the Relocation Assistance Program only if required by the agreement with the LPA.
- The Department will advise the LPA when all prerequisites have been met and acquisition can be initiated. Acquisition responsibilities that lay with the LPA, and the amounts disbursed, will be at their discretion subject to certain requirements imposed by Title III of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, as amended and Federal Regulations pertaining to said act. For projects with State cost participation the State's approved value sets the upper limit eligible for reimbursement if the parcel is acquired by negotiation. The LPA will not offer less than the State's approved value. While it is permissible for TxDOT right of way personnel to assist the LPA in their right of way acquisition, it is not intended that such personnel actually perform any of the responsibilities.