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Florida Eminent Domain Process

The majority of eminent domain cases in Florida meet the requirement for public purpose and necessity. Examples of cases that meet these criteria are: property acquisition for highway improvement projects, and acquisitions for utility projects such as installation of power lines and sewer systems.

If the taking of your property meets the requirements for public purpose or public necessity, then continue reading to learn more about the eminent domain process in the state of Florida. Please note that there are extended explanations for all of the numbered sections in the flow chart. Additionally, links to specific state statues are also provided, where applicable. Please be aware that the flow chart and explanations are simply an overview of the process and should not be used as a tool to take matters into your own hands.

If the taking of your property does not meet the requirement for public purpose and necessity, then you should learn more about your property rights in Florida.

FL-flowchart

Extended Flow Chart Information (click to open)

1. Government Announces Project and Properties Affected
Typically during project development, the condemning authority (whether that agency is the Department of Transportation, or a City/County Planning Division, etc.) will hold public meetings to inform the public of the upcoming project and how this project will affect private property.
2. Government Inspects & Values Property
Before the condemning authority makes an offer, they must determine the value of the property being taken, and whether or not the taking results in damages to the remaining land. This valuation is determined by an appraiser, and is then reviewed by the condemning authority before an offer is made.
3. Property Owner Hires Attorney
Depending upon the complexity of the case and the amount of additional damages done to the property, it may be necessary to allow condemnation to occur in order for the property owner to receive just compensation.  If this is the case, an eminent domain lawyer must be hired to assist the property owner with their claim.
4. Government Makes Offer to Property Owner
When the condemning authority makes an offer of compensation to the property owner, they must include (select the statute link for the complete list of items that must be included) the amount of land to be acquired, details regarding the nature of the project where the property is to be used, and that, within 15 business days after receipt of a request by the property owner, the condemning authority will provide a copy of the appraisal report used to determine the offer of just compensation; along with ROW plans and construction documents. (Fl. Stat. § 73.015(3))The condemning authority must include a written offer of compensation that reflects the value of the property being acquired; if only a portion of the property is taken, they must include damage amounts to the remainder. If the owner does not accept the offer within 30 days of receipt, the condemning authority can file a condemnation proceeding. (Fl. Stat. § 73.015(5)(b))If the property being acquired is business owner or operated, the condemning authority must attempt to contact the business owner or operator, including lessees, to provide notification of the property in question being acquired. (Fl. Stat. § 73.015(2)) If the business qualifies for business damages pursuant to Fl. Stat. § 73.071(3)(b)), and they intend to claim these damages, then the business must, within 180 days after receipt of the notice of acquisition, submit to the condemning authority a good faith written offer to settle any claims of business damage. (Fl. Stat. §73.015 (2)(c)) The condemning authority must accept, reject, or make a counteroffer with in 120 days after receipt of the good faith business offer. Failure of the condemning authority to respond or to reject the offer must be deemed as a counteroffer of zero dollars for subsequent action. (Fl. Stat. §73.015 (2)(d))At any time during the negotiation process, the parties may agree to submit the compensation or business damage claims to nonbinding mediation. (Fl. Stat. § 73.015(3)) If a settlement is reached prior to the lawsuit being filed, attorneys fees are recoverable as provided in Fl. Stat. §73.091 and Fl. Stat. §73.092
5. Attorney Evaluates Offer
After the condemning authority makes an offer, the property owner’s attorney will evaluate the appraisal and offer to determine if it represents just compensation. If the attorney finds errors in the condeming authority’s valuation, then they will determine how best to proceed.
6. Determine Negotiation Strategy
Prior to commencement of an eminent domain proceeding, the condemning authority must make a good faith attempt to negotiate a transaction with the property owner. The condemning authority must provide a written offer with the negotiation attempt for the property owner, and if requested, the condemning authority must provide a copy of the appraisal for the property owner. (Fl. Stat. § 73.015(1))
7. Select Appraiser to Determine True Property Value
After the condemning authority makes an offer, the property owner’s attorney will evaluate the appraisal and offer to The condemning authority shall pay all reasonable appraisal fees on behalf of the owner, whether or not the matter proceeds to trial. (Fl. Stat. § 73.091(1)Selecting an appraiser who can accurately value your property and assess the damages to any remaining parcel is one of the most critical steps in any eminent domain claim. Many times, property owners try to take matters into their own hands, and unknowingly hire an inexperienced appraiser. Unfortunately, this step could ruin a good claim. Visit our Resources page, under Why Act Now to read an example of how hiring the wrong appraiser can hurt your claim. Make sure you consult with an eminent domain attorney before hiring an appraiser on your own.
8. Property Owner Settles with Government
If the property owner signs the final settlement papers, they waive their right to pursue additional damages and the case is complete.  A property owner should only sign the final settlement papers if they are satisfied with the government’s offer.
9. Deed is Transferred
Once the final settlement papers are executed by the property owner, the deed is transferred to the condemning authority.  It is at this time that ownership is transferred from the property owner to the condeming authority.
10. Owner’s Case is Done
The owner is paid in full, the condeming authority owns the property, and the owner’s case is completely done. The property owner can no longer file a claim to challenge the taking or to receive additional compensation.
11. Property Owner Does Not Accept Offer
If, after negotiations, the property owner is not satisfied with the amount offered by the condeming authority, they can refuse the offer and allow condemnation to occur.
12. Government Commences Condemnation Proceedings
The condemning authority may file a petition for condemnation within the circuit court where the property lies. (Fl. Stat. § 73.021) Once the petition is filed, the clerk of the court will issue summons to show why the property should not be taken, directed “to all whom it may concern,” containing the names of all the property owners identified in the petition, commanding them to serve written defenses to the petition on a day specified in the summons not less than 28 nor more than 60 days from the date of the summons. (Fl. Stat. § 73.031 (1))
13. Trial Conducted Before 12 Person Jury
The condemning authority may offer judgment prior to the trial commencing (Fl. Stat. § 73.032 (2)). The offer will be deemed rejected unless accepted by filing both a written acceptance and the written offer with the court within 30 days after service of the offer, or before the trial begins if less than 30 days (Fl. Stat. § 73.032 (3)(c)). The property owner may also make an offer of acceptance to the condemning authority, but only if the amount is less than $100,000. If the property owner makes an offer, it must also be filed no later than 20 days prior to trial. If an offer is rejected by either party, the offer is then terminated and the case goes to trial. (Fl. Stat. § 73.032 (c)) If the property owner elects to accept the judgment offer and their acceptance has been filed with the court, then the owner’s case is done. If the offer of judgment is not accepted, the court will impanel a jury of 12 persons to determine just compensation. (Fl. Stat. § 73.071)The verdict of the jury shall state an accurate description of each property and the amount to be paid, together with any damage to the remainder caused by the taking and including business damages when allowable by statute. When severance damages, business damages, moving costs, separate compensation for permanent improvements made by a mobile home owner under Fl. Stat. § 73.072, or other special damages are sought, the verdict shall state the amount of such damages separately from the amounts of other damages awarded. (Fl. Stat. § 73.081) Within 20 days (or up to 60 if the court allows it) of judgment of compensation awarded, the condemning authority must deposit the award with the registry of the court. Upon payment, title and vestment of the property resides with the condemning authority. (Fl. Stat. § 73.111)

 

If you have questions regarding the eminent domain process in Florida, contact us for more information.

The eminent domain process in the state of Florida is complicated, and if you are undergoing eminent domain and want to make sure you are justly compensated, you should speak to an eminent domain attorney. Speaking to an eminent domain attorney regarding your case will keep you informed of your rights, the eminent domain process, and whether or not your attorney’s fees will be paid for by the state of Florida.

 

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