Eminent domain has a long legal history throughout most of the world. Even in the United States, the basic controversy over whether the good of the many outweighs the good of the few has been around since the colonial days.
What is Eminent Domain?
In Florida, eminent domain gives the government the power to take your property, even if you don’t want to sell. Under the Fifth Amendment, eminent domain must be for “public use”, which traditionally means projects like roads or bridges. The government must also pay the owners “just compensation” for their property.
Kelo v. New London
In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, dramatically expanded the definition of “public use” to include private economic development with its decision about New London, Connecticut. Basically, the Supreme Court said that local governments can condemn homes and businesses and transfer them to new owners if government officials think that the new owners will produce more taxes or jobs with the land.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor warned in her dissent: “The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.”
Florida and Eminent Domain
Luckily, thanks to sweeping reforms after Kelo v New London, Florida went from one of the worst states for eminent domain abuse offenders to a State that now offers some of the best protection in the U.S. for homes, businesses, and houses of worship. Now, Florida prohibits the use of eminent domain to transfer property from one private owner to another private owner, except where the land will be used for infrastructure projects, including roads, utilities, and common carrier systems. Eminent domain may not be used in Florida to eliminate blight, slums, or public nuisances either.
Another way Florida law protects property owners from eminent domain abuse is by forcing municipalities to give you full compensation (fair market value) for their property. This makes many developmental projects prohibitively expensive.
Florida law also ensures that eminent domain is used only for the true public good and that private sector projects have the potential to generate enough revenue to justify buying the land at its full fair market value.
The Power of the State to Use Eminent Domain
The exercise of the power of eminent domain is subject to all constitutional prohibitions found in both the Federal and State constitutions. The power is chiefly limited by the Federal and State constitutional provisions that no person may be deprived of property without due process of law.
What are the Three Requirements for Eminent Domain?
- The property acquired must be taken for “public use;”
- The State must pay “just compensation” in exchange for the property;
- No person must be deprived of his/her property without due process of law.
Is it Possible to Win against Eminent Domain?
In some cases, property owners can fight eminent domain by proving that the government entity isn’t taking the property for public use or by proving it hasn’t offered the fair market value of the property.
What Should I Do if I Receive an Eminent Domain Notice?
When facing a taking, it is extremely important that the property owner seek legal counsel as soon as possible. A qualified attorney will force the government to prove that the appropriation is justified and the compensation is comparable to fair market value.
Contact My Office
I’m Rob Robinson and as a solo practitioner, I can ensure that your eminent domain dispute is handled with individualized care and attention. I am committed to ensuring your property is protected and you are compensated to the fullest extent of the law.
Also, as part of the Florida Constitution’s guarantee of full compensation, a condemning authority is required to pay the property owner’s attorney’s fees and reasonable costs of the condemnation proceedings. These costs include reasonable appraisal fees.
The eminent domain process can be complex and intimidating. Furthermore, government agencies can trap property owners with their own words during negotiations. Never try to handle matters with the agency by yourself. I can help protect you in this daunting process of taking on the government by being a tenacious advocate for you and your assets.
If you receive an eminent domain notice, please contact my office today immediately.