The term “eminent domain” refers to the power of the government to make use of private property for a public purpose with or without the consent of a landowner. Put simply, eminent domain is the forced sale or “taking” of private property by a government entity. The individual rights of Florida citizens to own and acquire private property are subject to the power of eminent domain.
The eminent domain process is one of the harshest proceedings in civil law because it gives government entities the right to take private property and devote it to a public purpose. While the process itself is harsh, the Florida Constitution guarantees that property owners facing eminent domain will receive full compensation for their “taken” property.
Cities, counties and the Florida Department of Transportation are examples of entities with the power to exercise eminent domain. In addition, the power of eminent domain can be “delegated” or passed along to utility companies like Florida Gas or Progress Energy who provide a public benefits such as power or natural gas.
In Florida, when a government entity exercises its power of eminent domain within the bounds of the law, there is very little a landowner can do to stop the process. Fortunately, the Florida Constitution’s guarantee of full compensation allows landowners to receive compensation for the land taken and any loss in value to their remaining land resulting from the taking. Most importantly, Florida’s guarantee of full compensation protects a landowner from paying attorneys fees if the government makes an unfair offer to the landowner.