It’s every Florida homeowner’s nightmare. You’ve scrimped, saved, and sacrificed in order to buy your dream home. Or perhaps you inherited a house and land that has belonged to your family for generations. In either case, you’ve lived there for years, but you’ve just learned that the government wants to “take” your property in order to build something else. Now you’re wondering if “they” can really do that.
In most cases, the answer is: Yes, they can. In Florida, as in other states, the federal, state, or even local government can take private property through a legal process called Eminent Domain. This right is not limitless, however, since the government can only do so for certain purposes, in accordance with the law.
Here’s What You Need to Know
Provisions pertaining to eminent domain can be found in Article X, Section 6 of the Florida Constitution. Article X, Section 6(a) specifically states, “No private property shall be taken except for a public purpose and with full compensation therefor paid to each owner or secured by deposit in the registry of the court and available to the owner.”
Although the definition of a “public purpose” has been widely interpreted by Florida courts, the constitutional provision and applicable state laws nevertheless ensure that you are reimbursed, or that money is set aside for your reimbursement, if your property is taken through eminent domain.
The state laws regarding “pre-suit negotiations,” including compensation, can be found in Title VI, Chapter 73 of the Florida Statutes. In accordance with these laws, the government agency or “condemning authority” seizing your property through eminent domain must give you a “written offer” for your property. It must also give you a copy of the appraisal that serves as the basis for the offer, if you request it. Finally, the condemning authority “must attempt to reach an agreement regarding the amount of compensation to be paid for the parcel” before taking further legal action.
If you and the condemning authority are unable to reach an agreement through these negotiations and/or mediation and the case goes to trial, a jury will ultimately determine how much you will be paid based on the assessment of your property or based on damages to the remaining property, if only a portion of it will be taken. Confiscation of land through eminent domain is not limited to residential parcels – it can also affect businesses and mobile home parks.
Click here for a helpful Overview of land use and zoning in Florida.