Landowners in Florida may have heard of "eminent domain," they but might not be familiar with the intricacies of the concept and the legal issues that surround it. Eminent domain means that the government has a right to take the land of a private citizen for public benefit. The government must pay the landowner fairly for the land. In practice, however, eminent domain is rarely this straightforward.
For example, what constitutes public benefit may be a matter of interpretation. A pipeline might be for public benefit if it carries electricity, but this may not be the case if it is carrying oil. Furthermore, it is not always clear what constitutes just compensation or a fair time limit. Eminent domain could be forever.
An entity that needs a person's land will usually not seek eminent domain at first. More frequently, the landowner will first be asked for an easement. If the easement is not granted, then the land could be seized using eminent domain. At this point, the two choices available to the landowner are to fight the eminent domain ruling or to begin negotiating its terms. One couple chose to fight when a petroleum pipeline was going to be built across their Colorado land, and this resulted in a change in the state laws.
Florida has strong state protections for landowners when it comes to eminent domain, and a landowner who has been contacted about an easement or an eminent domain condemnation may want to speak to an attorney. In such cases, landowners should consider their goals. For example, some landowners might be primarily concerned with getting the best price they can while others might be focused on preserving their land for themselves and their descendants.