In 1995, the Florida Legislature took bold steps to protect private property rights by enacting the Bert J. Harris, Jr. Private Property Rights Protection Act, better known as the Bert Harris Act. The Act created a new cause of action for private property owners whose real property is burdened by government action, such as a new ordinance or regulation that limits development of a piece of property. The Act gave private property owners peace of mind when it comes to being able to use and develop their property the way they want to.
During the 2021 legislative session, the Florida Legislature took steps to strengthen the Bert Harris Act in favor of private property owners through HB 421/1101.
Procedurally, the bill passed both the House and Senate chambers, but has not yet been signed by the Governor.
What impact will this bill have on Florida landowners?
While HB 421/1101 made several changes to streamline the process for landowners, perhaps the most significant change is a mechanism that saves landowners time, energy, money, and resources in filing Bert Harris claims.
Previously, in order for a landowner to file a Bert Harris claim, the regulation that burdened the landowner’s property had to be applied to the landowner’s property, meaning that the landowner had to have been denied an application to develop land. HB 421/1101 provides a mechanism for landowners to determine if a regulation affects their land through a notice process without being forced to navigate the cumbersome process of filing for and receiving a final determination on an application for land development.
Some additional changes to the Bert Harris Act include:
- Reducing the timeframe for pre-suit notice from 150 days to 90 days to create consistency among all land designations;
- Providing measurable standards for appraisals used in the calculation of property valuation;
- Specifying that written settlement offers are presumed to be within the public interest to avoid forcing courts to determine whether a decision between the local government and the landowner is within the public interest;
- Allowing a judge, rather than a jury, to determine damages.
The changes to the Bert Harris Act in HB 421/1101 were designed to streamline and simplify the process for a private property owner to file a claim under the Bert Harris Act and provide further relief to landowners who would otherwise be unduly burdened by a land development regulation. Pending the Governor’s signature, this legislation is a win for private property rights.
Landowners needing assistance may contact Henderson Franklin at 239-344-1100.