Ask a Real Estate Pro: Homeowner can fight government’s plan to seize land
Board-certified real estate lawyer Gary M. Singer writes about the housing market at SunSentinel.com/business/realestate each Friday. To ask him a question, go to SunSentinel.com/askpro
Q: We just got a letter from the government telling us it’s taking the front 15 feet of our yard to expand the road we live on. The government says it will give us money, but it seems too little, and we like our yard the way it is. The last thing we want is more traffic where our children play. Do we have to go along with this? Fran
A: The government can take private property for a public purpose. It’s required to pay full compensation to you when it does so.
If you don’t agree to this, the government will file a lawsuit to show the court that it needs the property for public use, such as widening the roadway. In the lawsuit, the government will file an estimate of the property’s value. The court will have another hearing to determine how much compensation the property owner is due.
You can fight in court to retain your property by showing that it’s not needed or it’s not for a valid public purpose. The definition of what constitutes a public purpose has been widely interpreted with occasional surprising results.
Even if you lose the property, you still can challenge the estimate of the value if you disagree with it. The judge typically will send you to mediation, and if you still don’t work it out there it will end up in a jury trial. At least you won’t have to worry about paying an attorney for all of this because Florida law requires the agency that takes the property to pay reasonable expert costs and attorney fees.