Florida property is in hot demand. The unquenchable appetite for prime waterfront property in the Sunshine State has often sparked disputes about ownership and fraud. What do you need to know to stay safe?
In part one of this series on Florida’s Waterfront Property Land Grab we investigated how slick government moves, quick thinking investors, and others have been scooping up land right from under owners in St. Petersburg, Florida. Even the state and local governing bodies are battling over who owns what, and who should be collecting on it.
In addition to the above battles over submerged waterfront property and dock space, Florida property owners can find their ownership and usage rights challenged by a variety of other factors. This includes eminent domain.
Eminent Domain is a government power enabling authorities to seize private land. There are many reasons or excuses for these actions. It may be to build a highway or new school, or it could be to protect residents from natural disasters, take control of resources like water. In other cases it is to hand the property over to private developers to build sports arenas or new condos which produce more money for cities and counties.
Owners do have some rights under Florida Statutes. However, as in most cases involving giant organizations versus the little guy, few individual property owners can afford to put up a fight, or to fight for what they really deserve. It may also be no coincidence that eminent domain actions appear to dip when the market is soft, and soar when the market and equity is heading up, like it is now.
The Pros & Cons of Eminent Domain
There are pluses and minuses of eminent domain for everyone. Locals can benefit from new community buildings hosting art, sports, and government businesses and organizations. These can add value, attract more visitors and residents, and bring up local services and lifestyles. This can even be true of private ventures like condos, golf courses, and new mixed use properties.
Even real estate investors and owners can benefit when their properties at swiped at market highs, and they may receive premium compensation. When this happens to neighboring properties your property value may go up too.
Of course this can all be harmful too. It can erode affordability, increase the commute, create homelessness, and tempt massive waste and fraud. Those that don’t get a fair payout may wind up losing hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, or much worse.
More Property Rights Issues to Watch
In addition to outright eminent domain parts of properties can be seized, separate rights may have been sold off (air, water, mineral, usage), access easements may be in place or implemented, or older grandfathered rights may expire with the seller.
The legalese and fine print can make it very hard for buyers and even renters to determine this facts. Yet, they are critical, and also vital for sellers, landlords, and real estate agents to be alert to. In many cases the only way to know for sure is with a deep lien and title search, and survey.
Eminent domain is a significant threat to Florida property owners today. It is a contentious issue which can have both good and bad effects. Know what you’ve got, what you are getting, and what you are representing in advance with the help of a great Florida title insurance company.
Look out for more on this in Part 3…