Eminent domain is the inherent power of the state to seize a citizen's private property or rights in private property, without the owner's consent. The property is taken either for government use or by delegation to third parties who will devote it to "public use." The most common uses of property taken by eminent domain are public utilities, highways, and railroads. Some states require that the government body offer to purchase the property before resorting to the use of eminent domain.
The term condemnation is used to describe the act of a government exercising its power of eminent domain to transfer title to private property from its rightful owner to itself. It is not to be confused with the same term that describes a declaration that real property, generally a building, has become so dilapidated as to be legally unfit for human habitation due to its physical defects. This type of condemnation of buildings (on grounds of health and safety hazards or gross zoning violation) usually does not deprive the owners of the title to the property condemned but requires them to rectify the offending situation or have the government do it for them and bill them for the cost.
Condemnation via eminent domain indicates the government is taking the property or an interest in it, such as an easement . In most cases the only thing that remains to be decided when a condemnation action is filed is the amount of just compensation, although in some cases the right to take may be challenged by the property owner on the grounds that the attempted taking is not for a public use, or has not been authorized by the legislature, or because the condemnor has not followed the proper procedure required by law.
Eminent Domain Proceedings
Under authority of the State of Florida Constitution, the Florida Legislature has delegated authority to the Florida Department of Transportation, to condemn properties in order to implement its transportation improvement program. However, to ensure property owners' rights are protected and that they receive fundamental due process and jsut compensation for their property, Eminent Domain legislation governing the FDOT is provided by Florida Statutes - Chapters 73, 74 and 337.
Florida Statutes - Chapter 73 Highlights
Chapter 73 addresses jurt trial procedures, compensation and severance damages, costs of proceedings, attorney's fees, judgment, appeals, etc.
The court shall impanel a jury of 12 persons and submit the issue of compensation to them for final determination.
The amount of compensation and damages shall be determined at trial or the date when title passes.
Where less than the entire property is sought to be appropriated, any damages to the remainder caused by the taking, may be sought.
Any enhancement of the value of the property remaining may not be applied against the value of the property sought by the FDOT.
Any increase or decrease in the value of any property to be acquired which occurs after the scope of the project shall not be considered in the total value of the property being acquired.
The petitioner shall pay attorney's fees as well as all reasonable cost incurred in the defense of the proceedings in the circuit court, including, but not limited to, reasonable appraisal fess, business damages, and accountant's fees.
An appeal shall not preven appropriation of the property by the petitioner where the amount awarded by the judgement has been deposited with the court.
Florida Statutes - Chapter 74 Highlights
Chapter 74 provides the condemnor with the opportunity to obtain an "order of taking" through an expedited hearing prior to the final judgement.
Those having the right to take possession and title in advance of the entry of final judgement in Eminent Domain actions, may file a devlaration of taking signed by the petitioner, or its duly assigned agent or attorney, stating that the property sought to be appropriated is therby taken for the use set forth in the petition.
The petitioner shall make a good faith estimate of value, based upon a valid appraisal of each parcel in the proceeding, which shall be made a part of the declaration of taking.
If a defendant requests a hearing pursuant to the filing of the decleration of taking, said defendant may appear and be heard on all matter properly before the court.
If the court finds that the petitioner is entitled to possession of the property prior to final judgement, it shall enter an order requiring the petitioner to deposit in the registry of the court such sum of money as willfully secure and fully compensate the persons entitled to compensation as ultimately determined by the final judgement.
The title or interest specified in the petition shall vest in the petitioner immediately upon the making of the deposit. Said lands shall be deemed to be condemned and taken for the use of the petitioner and the right to compensate for the same shall vest in the persons entitled thereto.
Neither the declaration of taking, nor the amount of the deposit shall be admissible in evidence in any action.