Eminent Domain: Is It A Threat?

Washington State’s Experienced Eminent Domain Attorneys

Buying a home in the United States is the symbol of the American dream – a sign of success and individual accomplishment. When we make the significant decision to buy a piece of property, we assume that that property is ours, subject only to the risks of losing a job and being unable to pay a mortgage, or the unlikely event of a fire or hurricane.

What many of us don’t consider is the risk posed by the possibility of eminent domain. While eminent domain is a relatively rare occurrence, it is a process that can significantly impede on your property rights. In order to minimize the stress and impact of eminent domain, it is important to understand how eminent domain works and what your rights as a property owner are.

What Is Eminent Domain and How Does it Affect Property Owners in Bonney Lake?

Eminent domain is the process by which the federal government, or state or local government, may take private land for public use. Eminent domain can involve the taking of an entire piece of property (such as in the process of expanding a highway), a portion of a piece of property, or can involve claiming an easement over a piece of land (which may be needed for a public utility easement).

The government may claim land for any legitimate public purpose. This can include facilitating utilities, building transportation networks, building public property such as a park, or expanding existing government buildings.

The power of the government to claim land under eminent domain is virtually unlimited, but certain rights of the private property owners must be respected. The government cannot simply claim land as its own while ignoring private property owners entirely. Instead, the government must work with the private property owners to make the situation as workable as possible.

Specifically, governments must offer land owners reasonable compensation for the land that they acquire. They must be willing to pay the private property owners for the land that is taken from them as acknowledgement of their property rights. This payment also gives the private property owners the ability to move on after their land has been taken.

Getting the Compensation You’re Entitled To

Many property owners may worry that even if the government is required to offer them money for their land, the amount they are offered will inevitably be far less than the land is actually worth. While governments do typically offer competitive compensation for land, homeowners have the ability to negotiate the amount of money they are going to receive.

Governments have an incentive to make the eminent domain process as easy and as quick as possible. This means that they will work with property owners to negotiate a fair price for the property that they are acquiring. If the government makes an initial offer for your property, you can make a counter offer based on your understanding of the market and what you believe your property is worth. The government can then counter and the process continues until a fair price is reached.

If the government and property owner ultimately can’t agree on a fair price, the property owner is entitled to participate in a full judicial proceeding, where the court will determine the fair value. Once the court determines an objectively fair price for the property, the government will then be required to pay that price to the property owners.

Challenging Eminent Domain More Broadly

In some cases property owners may object to not only the amount being offered for their land, but also the government’s justification for taking the land in the first place. When this happens, property owners can initiate a broader challenge against the government.

There are several bases on which a property owner may broadly challenge a taking under eminent domain.

  • Lack of notice
  • Unfair procedure
  • Lack of public use

First, property owners facing a taking through eminent domain are entitled to fair notice of the formal taking of their land. This is typically done by providing the property owner with a notice of intent of the taking and the opportunity to negotiate fair terms for the taking. If this type of notice isn’t offered, the government may not be able to proceed with the taking.

Second, the property owners are entitled to a full hearing if they fundamentally object to the taking. During this hearing both sides must be offered an opportunity to provide evidence as to why the land is being taken, the fair value of the property, and whether the proper process has been followed. Typically these types of hearings will be handled administratively, but if the property owners disagree with the outcome, they can eventually appeal to a judicial court.

Finally, property owners can object on the basis that the government’s use of their land is not a truly public use and does not fall within the auspices of the actual eminent domain doctrine. These types of challenges are rarely successful and courts will usually adjust compensation rather than stop eminent domain entirely, but the argument can still be raised.

Washington Attorneys Helping You Protect Your Property Rights

If you have been contacted by a government entity regarding the taking of your land, or have received a notice of intent for a taking, it is important to speak with an experienced real estate attorney as soon as possible. Eminent domain is an extremely serious process and is likely to divest you of your property entirely. As a property owner, one of the best things that you can do is ensure your rights are respected during the process.

Using an attorney, you can ensure that the government truly compensates you for the fair value of your land. Whether through initial negotiation or a more formal judicial process, the real estate attorneys at Bolan Law Group., will help you determine a fair demand for your property and defend your right to fair compensation regardless of how aggressive or difficult the government may be. To talk with a knowledgeable lawyer about your options, contact us online or at (253) 470-2356.

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