Urge Senate Committee to OPPOSE
SB 1766 - Bert Harris Property Rights Act 

On Tuesday, February 4, at 12:30 p.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider SB 1766 ( Lee ) , which amends the Bert J. Harris Property Rights Act.    
This bill significantly amends the Bert J. Harris Private Property Rights Act and substantially handicaps local government's ability to resolve these claims. SB 1766 would do the following:

  • The bill requires any settlement reached on a Harris claim that involves the issuance of a variance or exception to a regulation on a residential property be automatically applied by the government entity to all similarly situated residential properties that are subject to the same rules or regulations. Similarly situated is not defined in the bill. In essence, the bill will make an exception to a rule, the new rule. Variances are not handed out carte blanche by government entities.
  • The bill fails to take into account notice provisions, hearings, or even impacts on neighboring property owners when giving an across the board variance. Therefore, the legislation will have a severe chilling effect on the settlement of Harris claims.
  • The bill is a thinly veiled attack to cities and counties who have been dealing with Harris claims due to the enactment of vacation rental ordinances. However, the bill has a far reaching impacts on land use regulations, environmental regulations and code enforcement regulations.
  • The bill limits the time frame for government entities to respond to Harris claims from 150 days to 90 days, and increases the likelihood of paying the property owners attorney fees.
  • Under current law, a jury can award damages from a Harris claim based on the loss of property value and cannot consider any business damages relative to an activity, or use the government has restricted or prohibited. The bill would now allow for the compensation of business damages in addition to the loss of property.

Click here to view the Issue Background .
SB 1766 Talking Points:

  • Protect property owners. Some lawmakers want blanket entitlements that don’t consider every person’s property rights. If private property rights are changed for one property owner, they would change for everyone. The law wouldn’t consider the size or density of property, historical listings or other strict zoning standards. There could be unintended consequences. Those special interests seeking private gain? This gives them a back door.
  • Avoid excessive lawsuits. This would lead to a lawyer’s dream because it would be easier to sue than reach a resolution with cities and counties. The Bert Harris Act was never intended to be a class-action lawsuit offering massive rewards for those who aren’t willing to settle.
  • Taxpayers would pay the price. Cities could expect to get stuck dealing with lawsuits, and residents could expect higher taxes to cover litigation costs. Legislators should prioritize community needs.
  • More changes to the Bert Harris Act are unnecessary. Legal procedures already protect the rights of property owners who might be unintentionally harmed by a variance.

The Bert J. Harris Jr. Act of 1995 gives landowners a way to seek compensation when a local government takes action that impacts the use/potential use of their property. The act is detailed and fair. It allows local governments to negotiate with property owners who are filing a claim and calls on courts to consider the unique conditions of each claim. Many Bert Harris claims are negotiated locally without going to trial. This approach saves taxpayer dollars and proves that the current system is working.

For more information, contact David Cruz at 850.701.3676 or dcruz@flcities.com .
Please contact members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and urge them to OPPOSE SB 1766!
David Simmons (R-9), Chair

Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-37), Vice Chair

Dennis Baxley (R-12)
Audrey Gibson (D-6)

Travis Hutson (R-7)

Kelli Stargel (R-22)
Click here to download a spreadsheet with committee contact information. You can also use the League’s Contact Your Legislators advocacy tool to email your legislators.
Watch Live on The Florida Channel
To watch this committee hearing, please go to https://thefloridachannel.org/ , click on Live Streams and look for the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday at 12:30 p.m.

Keep FLC informed – Let us know what communications you have with your legislators on this issue. Email Allison Payne
Thank you for your advocacy efforts!