At TMLG, our attorneys have broad experience in real estate litigation, including disputes arising from the sale or purchase of commercial or residential real estate, the negotiation and preparation of commercial leases, title issues, financing and construction, and all related litigation. We have handled many matters involving easements, public roads, leases, CC&Rs, real covenants and servitudes, LID formation and protests, broker liability, title insurance, property insurance claims and coverage, land use issues (including shoreline substantial development permits, building permits, variances, upzoning, and “grandfathered” buildings and uses), timber trespass, adverse possession and prescriptive easements, and foreclosures and workouts. Our Real Estate practice includes the representation of developers, homeowners, title companies, escrow agents, developers, landlords, tenants, contractors, and condominium and homeowners’ associations. We provide cost-effective representation by anticipating legal problems and resolving them efficiently.
Recent successes include settlement of a hard-fought lawsuit to enforce easement rights, in which the defendants were required to remove trees and shrubs that they planted within the easement area. In another recent easement lawsuit, we prevailed at trial and obtained a judgment clearing from our client’s title a prescriptive easement claim by a neighboring property owner.
Eminent domain is the inherent power of the government to acquire a citizen’s private property or rights in property. This power is also referred to as “condemnation.” Although condemnation actions frequently concentrate on damages to property, technically, condemnation is the legal process whereby a public body (and certain private entities) is authorized by statute or ordinance to acquire private property for a use that has been declared to be public by constitution, statute, or ordinance. The “condemnor” is the public or private entity having the legal power of eminent domain. The “condemnee” is the owner of the private property sought to be taken.
When the government condemns private property it is unquestionably “taking” property, and there is no dispute that the government has an obligation to pay “just compensation” under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Just compensation is the “fair market value” of the property and any substantial damages. The fair market value is the current value of land and improvements, based on what price the property would bring if the owner did not have to sell and the buyer did not have to buy.
Eminent domain or condemnation begins when the condemnor makes the determination that the taking of private property is necessary for a public purpose. The finding that the acquisition is necessary to serve a public purpose should be clearly stated in a condemnation resolution, and the proposed public use of the property must be specified. However, condemnation can occur not only when an entity makes the determination that a taking of property is necessary and serves a public purpose; it also occurs when an entity interferes with your use of your property. An example would be when the enlarging of an airport causes a noise impact to your property. Another example would be when property is damaged by changes to water drainage in certain circumstances.
Eminent domain can fall under several different areas, including environmental laws; zoning laws; the construction of airports, roads and highways; telecommunications; and public and private utilities.
Our Eminent Domain team has extensive knowledge of all aspects of eminent domain and provides practical, cost-effective assistance to clients to ensure that they receive the maximum potential compensation when their property is subject to government intrusion. When representing landowners in eminent domain and condemnation actions where public entities or agencies seek to take their property, our attorneys expertly posture the cases to ensure that their clients receive just compensation. Our attorneys work to protect clients from the unlawful taking of their property by ensuring that a landowner’s rights are fully protected and that the landowner receives just compensation.
At TMLG, our attorneys are experienced in eminent domain proceedings, settlement negotiations and trials. If a governmental entity attempts to take private property in the public interest, this can have an enormous impact on a property owner’s financial interests. The power of eminent domain occurs not only in the common scenario where the state wants you to relocate so that they can build a highway through your property: a “taking” can occur by simply enacting a statute or ordinance that interferes with the use of your property.
Recent successes include obtaining a pretrial settlement of nearly double the original offer from WSDOT on behalf of homeowners impacted by the SR 520 widening project, and a trial verdict against the City of Tukwila for approximately 130% of the final offer, plus an award of attorney’s fees against the City.