When it comes to eminent domain law, many of the terms and jargon are confusing. You need to understand your rights so you know what the government can and cannot do when it tries to take your property. One of those confusing terms is “partial taking.” Just what is it and what are your rights if the government plans a partial taking of your property?
Defining partial taking
When the government plans to take your property for some sort of development, like a road project, it does so through eminent domain laws. The idea behind eminent domain allows the government to take private property to serve the public good, but it must pay the property owner a fair value for the property. Sometimes it only needs a part of your property, like a strip along the side, or your front yard, and the law defines that as a partial taking.
What you can do about a partial taking
Depending on your situation, that strip of land may be no big deal and you get paid for it, but in other cases, such as taking your entire front yard or your business’s parking lot, you may feel that it is a huge deal. So what can you do about it? As a property owner, you have rights, including the right to fair compensation. You may know how much your property is worth as a whole, but how much is that strip worth? Or just your front yard? What if they want to take the part of your property where your home or business is located? They may owe you severance damages or compensation for the entire value of your property.
The government will probably only offer you the value of the section of land they are taking. You can fight for severance damages, however, which compensate you for the effect the taking has on the rest of your property. For example, you may have a harder time selling your house without that nice front yard, or you could lose business by losing your parking lot. The value may be harder to quantify, but the damages are real.
When can you get the entire value of your property?
In some circumstances, dividing your property can have a drastic effect on its use and value. Florida passed a law in 1995 called the Bert J. Harris, Jr., Private Property Rights Protection Act. This act holds governments accountable for the effect its actions have on property, whether the government officially takes the property under eminent domain. If a partial taking makes the rest of your land unusable for its intended purpose, you may be eligible for full compensation.
Eminent domain takings are always frustrating for property owners, even if the government only takes part of their land. Don’t assume you must accept whatever the government offers you for your property, however. You do have rights and protections under Florida law.