Thousands of Florida property owners face the same dilemma every year. A condemning authority (e.g., a government or utility company) seeks to acquire some – but not all – of a property owner’s land. To do so, the condemning authority makes a monetary offer to the property owner. Should the property owner accept the offer or negotiate (and potentially litigate) for additional money? One factor that should be considered, but is not always readily apparent, is that the taking may damage the property owner’s remainder property (the land the property owner will continue to own after the taking). Such damages are called “severance damages”. And, they accrue for a variety of reasons, including: (1) alterations in shape and size of remainder property; (2) unfavorable drainage or grading changes to the remainder property; and (3) access issues resulting from the taking. One important reason to account for these severance damages is that they can be costly. Consider, for example, the following hypothetical scenario:
- A Florida property owner owns 1.2 acres of vacant property in a large metropolitan area.
- The property is valuable because it is zoned for heavy commercial use and can be commercially developed.
- In the city where the property is located, a local regulation requires that property be of at least 1.0 acres in size to be commercially developed.
- A condemning authority seeks to acquire .4 acres of property from the affected property owner.
- After the eminent domain taking, only .8 acres of land will be owned by the property owner, and the city’s regulation will prevent the remainder property from being commercially developed.
- This impact drastically reduces the value of the entire property. Even though the condemning authority is only taking 1/3 of the square footage of the property, the value of the entire property will be materially reduced.
The good news for Florida property owners faced with this or a similar situation is that Florida eminent domain law requires condemning authorities to pay for these damages to the remainder property. See Fla. Stat. § 73.071(3)(b) (2011) (eminent domain damages “shall” include “any damages to the remainder [property] caused by the taking”). The bad news for Florida property owners is that Florida condemning authorities tend not to adequately compensate for (or, in some cases, even recognize) these damages in their initial monetary offers to property owners. One advantage of hiring the Fixel Law Firm is that its attorneys will enlist the assistance of experienced eminent domain professionals (appraisers, site analysts, and engineers) to search for and calculate severance damages for each and every client. If severance damages exist, the Fixel Law Firm attorneys will negotiate and, if necessary, litigate to ensure the affected client is fully compensated for these damages. If you own Florida property that may be subject to an eminent domain taking and you have a question regarding severance damages or any other Florida eminent domain issue, please contact the Fixel Law Firm’s partner, William Fixel, by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone toll-free at 1-800-848-7535.