Condemnation/Eminent Domain

Eminent domain, or the right of condemnation, is a power that is held by federal, state, and local governments. The power of eminent domain is provided for under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, as well as in the Washington State Constitution. In Washington, as in other states, governmental entities can use the eminent domain power to take an individual’s private property for a public purpose, even if the landowner is unwilling to sell. (Pub. Util. Dist. No. 2 of Grant County v. N. Am. Foreign Trade Zone Indus., LLC, 159 Wash. 2d. 555, 151 P.3d 176 (2007).) While governmental entities may exercise this power, the law requires that the government justly compensate the landowner for the property at the fair market value. (Washington Constitution article I, §16; RCW 8.04.010, 8.04.090, 8.04.092.)

Condemnation / Eminent Domain Practice

At Dickson Frohlich, our condemnation attorneys have extensive experience in representing clients involved in condemnation/eminent domain proceedings. Our attorneys have successfully represented clients throughout Seattle, Tacoma, and the Puget Sound Region in their various eminent domain matters. If you or your business is involved in a condemnation proceeding, obtaining legal counsel to represent you is extremely important. Keep in mind that the governmental entity exercising eminent domain power over your property does not take into account your personal interests. With experienced legal counsel, the likelihood of you getting a greater amount of compensation for your property is far greater than if you were to proceed through a condemnation proceeding without legal representation. At Dickson Frohlich our attorneys will work closely with you and will work diligently to protect your interests.

The Condemnation/ Eminent Domain Process

The eminent domain process generally begins with a governmental entity recognizing a need for a public project within the limits of its jurisdiction. Once it has recognized this need, the governmental entity will normally then inform the public of the project and then commence some preliminary work. With the project in its very early stages, the next step in the eminent domain process is for the governmental entity to find out what specific private property will be affected by the project and who the affected property owners are.

The next step of the process requires putting the property owners on notice that their property is needed for the project. This is generally done by the governmental entity sending a notice letter to the property owners in the mail. The notice will tell the property owners that every effort will be made to reach an acceptable agreement on the price to be paid, but that if no agreement can be reached, the governmental entity will exercise its eminent domain power and force acquisition of the property.

Once notice of the government’s intention is given to the property owners, the governmental entity will then send an appraiser to each affected property to take measurements and descriptions. The appraiser will then draft an appraisal for each property to be taken. When each appraisal is completed, the governmental entity will then create just compensation offers for each property owner. These offers will then be distributed. It is important to know, however, that these offers are not strictly take it or leave it offers. Rather, the property owners may negotiate with the government for a different price. However, if negotiations do not lead to an agreement between the parties, the governmental entity will then file an eminent domain action in court, which ultimately allows the government to take the property once it pays the final order.

As you can see, the eminent domain process can be complex, confusing, and time-intensive. Because an individual property owner is often left alone to negotiate with a governmental entity, it is most beneficial for individuals who are faced with a condemnation proceeding to hire an eminent domain lawyer. With an experienced eminent domain lawyer, the likelihood of you getting the most compensation for your property is far greater than if you go through the process alone. If you or your business is faced with a condemnation proceeding, please give us a call.

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Thomas L. Dickson

Tom is an experienced litigator and the founding partner of the Dickson Frohlich. For over 30 years, he’s helped clients prevail in their real estate, construction, and business law matters.

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Robert P. Dickson

The core of Rob’s legal practice is civil litigation, with an emphasis on construction, real estate, and business law. He represents a wide range of clients, from large construction companies to individual homeowners.

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Mark S. Johnson

Mark’s legal practice focuses on civil litigation, real estate law, business law and family law. He works tirelessly to help his clients achieve the outcome they are looking for.

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Daniel J. Frohlich

Dan’s legal practice focuses on civil litigation, real estate law, business law and probate law. He has more than 10 years of experience as an attorney serving clients throughout Western Washington.

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Rhiannon Funke

Rhiannon (“Rhia”) Funke comes to the firm with nearly 8 years of experience handling complex real property matters and volume litigation.

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Cassandra R. Ingram

As an associate at Dickson Frohlich, Cassandra is active in the firm’s civil litigation department. Her practice largely focuses on family law, estate planning, land use, and real estate law.

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Chris Lindemeier

As an associate at Dickson Frohlich, Chris practices in a wide range of areas, including business law, real estate law, civil litigation, and intellectual property law.

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Rebecca Corcoran

As an associate at Dickson Frohlich, Rebecca is active in the firm’s business law department. She can help with entity formation, intellectual property, as well as any necessary litigation involving your business’s needs

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Daniel Pizarro

As an associate at Dickson Frohlich, Daniel is active in the firm’s civil litigation department. His practice is mainly centered around real estate law, landlord-tenant law, construction law, and probate law.

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George Knight

George is an honors graduate of Emory University School of Law. While there, George served on the Emory Law Journal as an Articles Editor.

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Reed Speir

Born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, Reed Speir has lived in the Tacoma area since 1994. Reed earned his law degree from Seattle University School of Law.

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