The Constitution of Florida has delegated authority to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to condemn properties in order to implement its transportation improvement program. The Eminent Domain legislation governing the FDOT is provided by Florida Statutes – Chapters 73, 74, and 337.
Pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 73.012, an action in eminent domain shall be governed by the rules of civil procedure. Before an eminent domain proceeding, the condemning authority must attempt to negotiate in good faith with the fee owner of the parcel to be acquired, must provide the fee owner with a written offer and, if requested, a copy of the appraisal upon which the offer is based, and must attempt to reach an agreement regarding the amount of compensation to be paid for the parcel. At any time in the pre-suit negotiation process, the parties may agree to submit the compensation or business damage claims to nonbinding mediation[i].
The condemning authority may file a petition in the circuit court of the county wherein the property lies[ii]. 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. The petitioner shall pay attorney’s fees as well as all reasonable costs 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 prevent appropriation of the property by the petitioner where the amount awarded by the judgment has been deposited with the court.
The condemning authority has the right to take possession and title in advance of the entry of final judgment. The authority may file a declaration of taking signed by the petitioner, its duly assigned agent, or attorney stating that the property sought to be appropriated is thereby taken for the use set forth in the petition. The petitioner shall make a good faith estimate of the 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 declaration of taking, an opportunity to be heard is afforded to the defendant.
If the court finds that the condemning authority is entitled to possession of the property prior to final judgment, the court may direct the condemning authority to deposit in the registry of the court such amount that will fully compensate the property owners. Once the petitioner makes the deposit, the title or interest specified in the petition shall vest in the petitioner. The property 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.
[i] Fla. Stat. § 73.012.
[ii] Fla. Stat. § 73.021.