Eminent domain, though it tends to have negative connotations, is how governments develop land for public use. Many of the highways, rail systems and parks in Florida were built via eminent domain. Specific statutes allow the government to buy property as long as it pays a fair market price. An arrangement can, therefore, only be granted if negotiations first take place. The current landowner always has the right to request more money.
Fair market value
Negotiation is how a government entity files its motion for eminent domain. To negotiate, the filing agency begins by determining the value of a property. By law, the agency can’t offer property owners less money than what their real estate is worth, but the fair market value of a property doesn’t have to be accepted by the current landowner. Regardless, an appraisal paid for by a petitioner is done to ascertain an independent valuation.
Public agencies can pursue claims of eminent domain but must do so within specific guidelines. How the property will be used after it’s purchased via eminent domain determines the deal’s legality. You can only receive a notice of condemnation if the public agency can ensure that:
- The property will not be developed for private use.
- The property owner is compensated for their compromise.
- The appraisal is written with fair market values and signatures from a licensed appraiser.
- The acquiring entity made a public offer before taking formal action.
- The freedom to conduct an independent appraisal by the owner is honored, which includes assessments from their attorney.
Offers of judgment in Florida
To exhaust their legal right of buying property under the statutes of eminent domain, public entities will give property owners offers of judgment. This is a type of settlement. Who makes the offer isn’t as important as the penalties of not accepting what a court judges as a fair deal. Holding either a petitioner or a plaintiff to their appraisal is done with an offer in judgment.
Properties purchased via eminent domain are meant to be used for the public good. If the parties to the transaction can’t agree on the purchase, an offer of judgment may come into play.