These are some of the things that you should take into consideration if you are faced with an eminent domain situation.
Retain a qualified eminent domain attorney as soon as you learn about a project that may impact your property. Under Florida law, the government has to pay your attorney. In most cases, a qualified eminent domain attorney will agree to look solely to the government for attorney’s fees and you will not be obligated to pay any attorney’s fees to your lawyer.
Do not talk extensively to the government representatives or agents about your property prior to retaining an attorney and never tell them what you think your property is worth. It is their job to try to acquire your property for the least amount possible and as quickly as possible. They are usually individuals that are trained to put owners at ease. They will want you to trust them, but they have their employer’s best interest as a priority, not yours.
To best protect your interests, especially in the event of a trial, all correspondence with the government should be through your attorney.
If you want the government to consider changing their plans, begin that process as quickly as possible and preferably before they have finalized their construction plans.
Your attorney should provide you with up to date copies of all right of way maps, construction plans and schedules relating to your property.
Be aware of the eminent domain provisions of any lease on the property and, if possible, attempt to modify the lease to your benefit prior to the government’s acquisition.
Be aware that tax appeals may have a negative impact on the valuation of your property and discuss this with your attorney before you appeal your real property tax assessment.
The following issues may be important to the valuation of your property:
current zoning and land use
future land use designation
prior uses of the property
probability of rezoning
probability of achieving zoning variances
probability of land use changes
zoning non- conformities caused by the taking
restoration of the building improvements and other property features after the taking
real estate tax assessments
wetlands – endangered species
historic structures and sites
riparian and water rights
flooding and drainage
tenancies and lease terms
noise, vibration, air quality
security and safety
and current and future vehicular and pedestrian access to the property.
It is very important to remember that your property will usually be valued as of the date that the government acquires it. Investment in the improvement, expansion, modification and maintenance of your property should be discussed with your attorney and weighed against the impact of failing to fully utilize and maintain the property prior to acquisition by the government.
Be aware that it is not uncommon for the government to abandon or significantly delay a project. This must be taken into consideration by you and your attorney as you prepare for the possible acquisition.