Frequently Asked Questions About Eminent Domain
What is eminent domain?
Eminent domain refers to the inherent power of the government to take private property for a public use.
When a property owner is faced with the government taking their property under eminent domain, it is essential that they understand their rights. The Hahn Loeser Eminent Domain Team has extensive experience representing property owners on eminent domain issues. With more than 100 years of combined experience, our attorneys and support professionals understand all aspects of eminent domain law and use their experience to help clients obtain the best possible outcomes.
Who has the power of eminent domain?
Eminent domain is an inherent power of government. The United States Constitution and the Florida Constitution are constraints on the exercise of that power. In addition to the government, various non-governmental entities are delegated the power of eminent domain by the government such as utility companies, water management districts, port authorities, school districts, etc.
Can the government’s use of the eminent domain power be challenged?
There are certain defenses that can be interposed when the government seeks to take your property although they are fairly limited. They may include procedural errors, lack of sufficient authority, bad faith or other defenses that relate to the process. The use of eminent domain powers can only be for a public purpose so if it is being used for a private benefit it can be challenged. The vast majority of eminent domain cases are valid exercises of the power and, instead, are contests over the amount of compensation due the property owner.
Can the government actually take someone’s house?
Yes. It may be a scary thought that the answer is “yes,” but again, the property owner must be made whole and paid full compensation. There are many instances where residences are condemned for public projects such as roadways, bridges, parks or flood control structures.
How much does it cost to contest the amount of compensation being received in a condemnation case?
The short answer is nothing. We will accept your case with no fee obligation to you. We will agree to accept as our fee the amount due or awarded pursuant to Florida law. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the state constitution mandates that the property owner receives full compensation and requires the condemning authority to pay the property owner’s costs including attorney’s fees, expert witness fees and all other costs reasonably necessary to protect the owner’s rights. The court reasoned that anything less would fail to provide the property owner with full compensation.
How long does the process take?
As you can imagine, it varies significantly from case to case. In general, however, eminent domain cases are concluded within two years. Trial and appeals can extend that time. The vast majority of eminent domain cases are resolved in mediation. It is likely that yours will also. It depends on the complexity of the case but, absent trial or appeal, 6 to 18 months is pretty standard.
What kind of lawyer should I be looking for?
The most important thing to look for in an attorney is someone who has significant experience in the eminent domain field. There are many lawyers with experience in other areas of law, but the vast majority do not have much or any experience in the eminent domain field. You should also look for an attorney who has practiced in the local area. It is helpful to have an attorney who is familiar with the judges, the people who work for the condemning authority and who is familiar with the locality in which the property is located.
How do I stay updated on the project affecting my property?
Our firm keeps current on the projects that are in the process of being considered, designed, approved or built. We keep our clients updated during all phases of a project. In addition, we also post updates on our website so you can always go there to check the latest news on all the current projects.
Feel free to check our website to learn more about project's affecting your property. We take pride in staying current on the projects status.
Learn more about the Eminent Domain Professionals that are serving the Fort Myers, Florida and surrounding areas.