Eminent Domain Checklist
The Playbook to Obtain Full Compensation
If you are contacted by a condemning agency seeking to take all or part of your property, you should take the following steps to ensure you and your property rights attorney are prepared to protect your interests.
Obtain copies of the plans from the condemning authority.
The right of way maps and construction plans can be obtained by you or your attorney prior to the initiation of the condemnation proceedings. You should know the scope and potential impact of the taking prior to having any communications with the condemning agency. This would include your property directly affected, any property you own that may be indirectly adversely affected, as well as any properties you don’t own but that are included in the taking. Knowing the scope and impact of the agency’s action can help build your case.
Do not communicate with the condemning authority.
All communications with the condemning authority should be made through council. Direct communication with the condemning authority and any documents produced can have a negative impact on your case.
You should obtain legal advice before making any decisions.
You should consult with an experienced eminent domain attorney before making any decisions regarding real estate taxes, loans, leases, rezoning, listings or any other decision regarding your property.
You should retain your own valuation experts.
The condemning authority will retain an appraiser who has likely worked with that agency for years to assess your property as well as a land planner, architect, accountant and other “experts.” You should hire your own team of valuation experts that do not have an allegiance to the government. We will recommend these experts to you, and their fees will also be paid by the government.
Legal Fees and Costs
In Florida, the condemning authority is required to pay your attorney’s fees and costs in an eminent domain action. These fees and costs are paid separately from compensation and do not reduce your financial recovery.
Florida law recognizes that you had no choice in the decision to take your property for a public need, and it would be unfair to burden you with the costs associated with retaining a lawyer, appraiser and other professionals. Therefore, the government must pay your legal fees and costs, separate and apart from the compensation it pays to you for your property and/or business damages. Florida Statutes 73.092 and 73.015 set forth a framework by which the government must pay a percentage of the increase over the government’s initial offer to your attorney(s) (i.e., monetary and non-monetary benefits); the more we secure for you, the more the government has to pay us in fees. This payment is calculated and made subsequent to the determination of full compensation and will not reduce your compensation, notwithstanding what you may have been told by the government or its agents.
You are entitled to a jury trial to determine full compensation for the taking of your property, damage(s) to your remaining property and business damages, if any. It is important that you retain experienced trial lawyers that are ready, willing, and able to take your case to trial if the government refuses to pay full compensation for your losses.