The Florida Constitution and Florida Statutes grant all landowners certain specific protections and rights against government takings of private property. The government may not simply seize land it desires. The landowner is entitled to an attorney paid for by the government entity seeking to acquire the land. Florida Statute 73.092
. The landowner is entitled to expert witnesses to place them on an equal footing with the government. This may include an appraiser, building contractor, civil engineer, urban planner, horticulturalist and additional experts as needed. Florida Statute 73.091
. In short the law ensures that the landowner need not face the daunting task of negotiating or fighting a government taking alone. The landowner is entitled to protection which the Constitution and legislature require the condemning government entity to pay for.
NOTICE AND INFORMATION
There are very specific legal protections which prohibit a government from pressuring landowners to sell quickly and without complete informed knowledge of the project. . Florida Statute 73.015
sets forth the pre lawsuit negotiation procedures. The landowner is entitled to receive a copy of the appraisal upon which the government bases its offer to purchase. In addition, and extremely important, is that the owner is entitled to receive a copy of the construction plans for the project for which the land is being acquired. A thorough examination of the construction plans by the civil engineer will reveal what damages the adjoining remaining property will suffer as a result of the construction project. Without an understanding of the specific construction details the owner may settle with the false impression of safety only to learn of the devastating effect of the project after it is constructed. Once the settlement occurs, you cannot in the future claim ignorance of the plans which existed at the time of the settlement. The Florida Statutes and Court rulings ensure that the owner’s, at no cost, are entitled to the legal representation and expert witness review necessary to ensure that informed decisions are made.
SETTLEMENT OR JURY TRIAL
The Florida Constitution and Florida Statutes provides that unless the owner is satisfied, and after proper negotiations, voluntarily agrees to sell the government the land it seeks to acquire at a fair price, the government may only acquire title to the land by filing its eminent domain proceedings. The government is required to deposit its appraisal amount in the Registry of the Court. The owner can withdraw the good faith estimate subject to other interest such as property taxes or mortgages etc. The owner may choose to voluntarily settle at mediation. Should the owner decide that the Government is not willing to pay full compensation for the property taken and damages to the remaining lands at the mediation conference, then the owner is entitled to a twelve person jury trial at the Circuit Court for the County in which the property is located. The jury’s verdict becomes a final judgment which the government must pay. In addition to the government paying full compensation for the land acquired and business damages for the harm caused to qualifying businesses, the government is required to pay the owners reasonable attorney fees and expert witness costs.
Note:The Florida statutes refer to the government entity seeking to acquire private property as Petitioner or condemning authority.