Eminent domain allows the government to take (condemn) private citizens’ property for “public use.” Though the government must compensate the property owners fairly, conflicts can easily arise out of the situation.
One aspect of eminent domain that is especially contentious is the practice of transferring condemned property to third-party developers—for purposes that are not public use. In Florida, the state legislature has tried to protect property owners from this practice.
A brief history of eminent domain
In its early days, “public use” was a strict term that pretty much only applied to public goods such as transportation, water and energy services.
As time passed, the courts expanded what constitutes public use. In the 1950s, the government began using eminent domain to develop economically under-developed areas. In 2005, a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowed local governments to transfer lands condemned by eminent domain to a private party for development.
Florida protects its property owners
In response to the Supreme Court case, Florida’s state legislature passed legislation that restricted the transfer of condemned land to private companies. According to Florida law, condemned land can only be transferred to a private party after 10 years.
This makes it harder for the government to abuse eminent domain by allowing private companies to develop lands for private gain. For example, under Florida law, a homeowner could not have their land seized to be used for a private hotel development.
Eminent domain still affects many in Florida
Although Florida protects its property owners more than almost any state, many Floridians still have to deal with the reality of eminent domain.
If the government is trying to condemn your property, you may want to contact a lawyer to help you defend your rights and protect what’s yours.