WILL I BE REQUIRED TO PAY ANY ATTORNEYS FEES OR COSTS?
Florida Statutes require the government to pay reasonable attorney fees and expert costs. Although some attorneys may seek a portion of the money paid for your land or business, BRENT SIMON LAW GROUP will not, and they are satisfied with the attorney’s fee and costs which the Florida Statues require the government to pay based on benefit the firm obtains for the client. The owner pays no attorney’s fees nor costs!
CAN THE GOVERNMENT SIMPLY TAKE MY LAND IF I DO NOT ACCEPT THE OFFER WITHIN THE TIME ALLOTTED IN THE OFFER LETTER?
Absolutely not. The government must obtain clear title to the property it needs for its project either by deed or by Court Order and then, only afterstrictly following the appropriate rules and paying the good faith estimate based on a valid appraisal into the registry of the Court.
ONCE THE GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES A PROJECT, SHOULD I STOP MAINTENANCE AND FUTURE PLANS?
NO. Government projects are notorious for delays. Appraisals are extremely visual by nature. A better maintained property generally results in a greater value recovered. Maintenance or lack thereof will directly relate to the amount of depreciation an appraiser will apply. The better the condition a structure is in the greater the value. Vacant properties at the time of the PDE study which are subsequently developed have led to the government relocating a project.
CAN THE GOVERNMENT PREVENT ME FROM UTILIZING MY LAND AFTER IT IS EARMARKED FOR A FUTURE PROJECT?
The answer is no. Until a voluntary deed is signed or a Court issues its order of taking, the government cannot prevent the land owner from utilizing its lands in a lawful manner in accordance with the zoning and land use codes.
ONCE THE GOVERNMENT IDENTIFIED MY PROPERTY FOR A FUTURE ACQUISITION, I CANNOT RENT OR SELL THE PROPERTY AND I AM AFRAID THE PROPERTY VALUES ARE GOING DOWN. WILL THE GOVERNMENT BE ABLE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS?
A government appraiser may fail to understand the disastrous effects that publication of a future project may have on the landowner. The catch phrase describing this condition is CONDEMNATION BLIGHT. Florida law requires the land to be valued at its HIGHEST AND BEST USE. This means the most profitable use for which the property is likely to be needed in the reasonable foreseeable future. Evidence of lower values which result from the blight caused by the government project is inadmissible evidence.
MY LAND IS CURRENTLY VACANT PASTURE LAND AND IS GREEN BELTED FOR TAX PURPOSES. I HAD PLANS FOR A MORE INTENSE USE IN THE FUTURE. DOES THE CURRENT USE LIMIT THE ULTIMATE AWARD?
This gets back to the HIGHEST and BEST USE definition which appraisers must consider in appraising property. The property’s highest and best use is often completely different from the current use. Therefore, even though property is currently being used for grazing cattle or left vacant, if it’s highest and best use is commercial or multi family, the government must pay commercial or multi-family property values.
IFI RENT MY LAND, WILL THE TENANT RECEIVE COMPENSATION? CAN THE TENANT CLAIM SOME OF THE MONEY PAID FOR THE PART TAKEN?
Depending on the amount of rent paid versus the fair market rental rate, a tenant may be entitled to a portion of the money paid for the land acquired. The process is called apportionment. The landlord can eliminate this possibility by simply including a “condemnation clause” in the lease. We can provide sample clauses at no cost to you. If you are a property owner and believe that the government may be acquiring your property for a future project, we would welcome the opportunity to review the facts of your case and discuss your legal options AT NO CHARGE.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF GOING TO LAWSUIT AS OPPOSED TO ACCEPTING THE FIRST OFFER?
Settling with the right of way agent early can usually result in a small 10 to 20% increase. Waiting for the lawsuit to be filed and then going to mediation is a much stronger negotiation position. Allowing the process to proceed has resulted in 100 to 200 percent increases. Every case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits.
WILL I BE REQUIRED TO PAY EXPERT FEES?
Florida Statutes require the condemning authority to pay all reasonable expert fees. Our contract includes the provision “Owner pays no expert costs”.
I DO NOT OWN THE LAND, BUT I OPERATE A BUSINESS ON SITE. WILL I RECEIVE COMPENSATION?
A business which has a lease may have an interest in the land for which it can be paid. In addition, if the business has been on the property from which there is a partial acquisition of land for more than five years, the business may be entitled to claim business damages. Federal relocation assistance may also be available depending on the case.
WHEN DO I NEED A LAWYER IF I KNOW MY PROPERTY WILL EVENTUALLY BE AFFECTED?
Eminent domain cases have some aspects in common with estate planning. Some benefits disappear if not planned for prior to the event occurring. Our firm helps the land and business owner plan for the eventual take so that maximum recovery may be had. A simple lease provision can mean the difference between receiving payment or not. The earlier you hire your lawyer the better off you are. This is especially true when the lawyer does not charge you a fee.
HOW LONG DOES THE EMINENT DOMAIN PROCESS TAKE?
There is no set rule for the length of the eminent domain process. The design of the road project may proceed rapidly or last years. Once a lawsuit is filed, most cases will be closed within six months to one year.
I RECEIVED A LAWSUIT, WHAT DO I DO?
Call your eminent domain attorney immediately. Failure to raise certain specific defenses in your answer to petition in eminent domain will result in your inability to claim compensable damages.
I RECEIVED A FIRST OFFER LETTER, WHAT DO I DO?
Call your eminent domain lawyer! The first offer letter will trigger a number of events. The business owner will shortly thereafter receive a notice to business owner, if applicable. The government must provide the landowner with the appraisal upon which the first offer is based. Obtaining the appraisal allows your team of experts to refute the government’s claim of value.
I RECEIVED A NOTICE TO BUSINESS OWNER LETTER, WHAT DO I DO?
Call your eminent domain lawyer! Failure to respond to the notice to business owner within the prescribed time may result in the total loss of your business damage claim. The government must provide the landowner with the appraisal upon which the first offer is based. Obtaining the appraisal allows your team of experts to refute the government’s claim of value.
THE COUNTY OR FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION IS TRYING TO CONTACT ME, SHOULD I SPEAK TO THEM?
The government employees and consultants often attempt to gain information which may later be used against you. The best policy is to politely inform the government that you have hired an eminent domain attorney. The attorney can advise you regarding which questions to answer and how.
CAN I SETTLE MY CASE WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY?
The government will ask you to donate your land which you are free to do. However, if you desire to receive the greatest compensation possible and enjoy the peace of mind knowing that professionals have reviewed the acquisition and impacts on your property, you should hire an eminent domain attorney and experts. There is no cost to you.
WHEN THE GOVERNMENT WANTS TO TAKE MY HOME/BUSINESS, WHEN DO I NEED TO MOVE/CLOSE?
The government cannot force you to leave your property unless you agree to sell your property, or a Court enters an order of taking and the government makes a good faith deposit based on a valid appraisal. The lawsuit procedure includes a built-in delay of several months. There is no need to panic. It is important to plan and prepare, but do not panic. Under some circumstances, the Court will allow continued occupancy of the part taken for six to twelve months. Every case is different.