This Land is Your Land...Or Is It?


As the economy has improved in recent years, the state road department, municipalities and public utilities have all been gearing up to construct needed projects. To do this, the government typically requires lands in private ownership which it must purchase. Government and some utility companies have the power of eminent domain (sometimes referred to as “condemnation”) which allows them to acquire property in order to build new roads, improve existing roads, or build other public facilities, provided that the acquisition of the property is necessary for a public purpose.  

Although the government’s power is not limitless, it is very strong, but it is well-tempered by the constitutional requirement that the condemning authority pay full compensation to property owners. Full compensation is often more than just compensation for the land taken. It also may involve compensation for the diminished value to a remaining property that is left with an odd size or shape, making development more difficult.  Full compensation also might involve business damages to a business owner who suffers lost profits due to temporary or permanent impacts from the taking. The impacts of a partial taking from a business property may be mitigated through a restoration process commonly referred to as a “cost to cure”, and this is often part of the full compensation that the government is required to pay as well.

Should you receive correspondence from a governmental entity or utility indicating that all or a portion of your property may be necessary for a public project, you should seek help immediately from an attorney experienced in eminent domain matters, as early communication with the condemning authority often can influence the design of the project in a way that favors your property. Trenam Kemker’s eminent domain team works exclusively in eminent domain and property rights litigation and has more than 40 years of experience and insight to advise on access, parking, site circulation, visibility, storm water management, government codes and other issues that may arise. The law requires the governmental entity wishing to take property from a private property owner to pay the reasonable attorneys’ fees and expert costs of that owner so that these services are provided at no cost to the client.

As a part of our eminent domain practice, we research and monitor public projects throughout the state. One of the services we provide to our clients is to advise them whether any of these projects might affect their Florida properties. We provide this service at no charge and our clients have found this information to be a valuable planning tool for property management. We also can advise a client who may be thinking about buying additional properties whether or not any of those properties may be impacted by a future public project.  

Currently, we are tracking hundreds of projects in all of Florida’s 67 counties. These include not only projects by the Florida Department of Transportation, but also those of counties and municipalities, water management districts, other state agencies and public and private utility companies. We can provide this service to any client upon receipt of a list of the client’s Florida properties which we would then cross-reference with our project research and advise accordingly.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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