Vested rights is a legal concept that is intended to establish the rights of a property to rely on regulations that were in existence at the time a project was either constructed (partially or in full) or permitted. Under this concept, a government is estopped or barred from applying a pending or existing law, and a property owner is entitled to rely on laws and regulations that were in effect at the time of development because the owner has relied in good faith upon some act or omission of the government and has made such a substantial change in position or has incurred such excessive obligations and expenses that it would be inequitable and unjust to destroy the rights that the property owner has acquired. In the event it is determined that a property has met this test, the local government will be prohibited from stopping the permitting or development of a property.
However, a local government may oftentimes attempt to halt the permitting or development process when a property continues to proceed with a project knowing that the local government is in the process of adopting a pending ordinance that may stop or impede permitting or development.
There are many ways to establish that a developer is entitled to proceed with permitting and development under the existing land development regulations and comprehensive plan provisions. These options are as follows:
- Through a judicial determination by a Court
- Through administrative processes established by a local government
- By a statute specifically identifying the date wherein a project would be considered vested, such as under Florida’s Development of Regional Impact (“DRI”) law, Section 380.06(2)(a).
Our firm has assisted numerous clients before courts and administrative bodies in preserving and establishing vested rights, and ensuring that proposed or pending laws are not applicable to their developments.