Free consultation No fee unless we win*

Washington Eminent Domain Law Explained

Few issues evoke such strong opposition as the taking of private land through eminent domain for a public use. When it comes to eminent domain, the government is playing in their arena; they do this every day. They know what the rules are, they know how the rules affect them and they know how the rules affect property owners. If the government is taking your land, make sure that you become informed so that you know what you can and cannot do.

Your initial question might be, can I stop the process? In most cases, you won’t be able to prevent the government from acquiring your land, but you are entitled to just compensation under eminent domain law. Learn more about eminent domain generally and what you’re entitled to receive, or continue reading to learn about the Washington eminent domain process, your rights as a property owner and hiring a Washington eminent domain attorney.

We are licensed to practice law in Washington and can handle cases throughout the state. We have experience helping property owners who are impacted by highway and transit projects, pipeline projects, natural gas storage facility projects, redevelopment projects, acquisitions for municipal buildings, inverse condemnation, regulatory takings and much more.

Did you know that most eminent domain attorneys work on a contingent fee basis? With this fee structure, the attorney assumes the risk of earning a fee. Also, the government or condemning authority is required to pay your attorneys fees in eminent domain cases if certain criteria are met.

Columbia Hills State Park WA

Washington Eminent Domain Process

In the state of Washington, the eminent domain process can only be stopped if the proposed taking does not meet the requirements for public purpose or public necessity. If you have determined that the proposed taking does meet these requirements, then you should learn more about the Washington eminent domain process.

Remember, even if the government has the right to condemn your property, they cannot dictate the price they are willing to pay; compensation is determined by the highest and best use laws for your property.

Washington Property Rights

The eminent domain abuse dialogue often centers on policy issues involving the right to take property for economic development and blight. Since the landmark case of Kelo v. City of New London in 2005, many states have taken measures to help curb eminent domain abuse. Some states were very successful at passing meaningful reform, and other states failed to pass any legislation at all. Most states fall in the middle by passing legislation that looks good on paper but does little to level the playing field between property owners and the government.

Since the decision by the United States Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London many states across the country have taken measures to help protect the rights of private ownership.  The controversial Kelo decision held that a local government can take the private property of one person and give it to another private entity.  While the Court’s ruling was seen by many as a serious blow to citizen’s constitutionally protected rights of private property ownership, the decision prompted a number of states to initiate legislative reform to help curb eminent domain abuse.

The Castle Coalition has released a report, grading each of the states based on their efforts to protect private property owners and their rights based on changes in their respective state laws.  The Castle Coalition is the Institute for Justice’s nationwide grassroots property rights activism project that teaches home and small business owners how to protect themselves and stand up to abuse by governments and developers who seek to use eminent domain to take private property for their own gain. The Castle Coalition gave a letter grade of a “C-” to the state of Washington for property rights.

House Bill 1458 was filed in response to a Washington State Supreme Court case in 2007 concerning eminent domain proceeding notification. The bill suggested that public meetings were vitally important in the condemnation process, and that notice for final condemnation proceedings must be given to the affected property owner; you could not rely on posted information from a public website. The bill additionally stated that the condemning authority must send via certified mail, and at least 15 days before the public meeting, the information regarding where and when the final meeting would be held.

Hiring an Eminent Domain Attorney in Washington

The most blatant form of eminent domain abuse occurs when the government or condemning authority makes a ‘low ball’ offer. This scenario invariably requires the property owner to hire an attorney to obtain just compensation. Fortunately, the vast majority of eminent domain attorneys work on a contingent fee basis, meaning they charge a percentage of the additional money they obtain for the property owner. Also, Washington has passed legislation requiring the condemning authority to pay your attorneys fees and costs in eminent domain cases if certain criteria are met.

If you’re impacted by eminent domain in Washington, your attorney’s could be paid for by the government or condemning authority if the final judgement awarded at trial exceeds the last written offer by at least 10%. Attorneys fees might also be recoverable if the attorney representing the condemning authority awards attorney’s fees as part of the settlement in the eminent domain proceeding, or if the condemning authority requests, in writing, to take immediate possession and use of the property.

The motivation to negotiate honestly, and even avoid low ball offers to begin with, increases significantly if the condemning authority can be liable for the attorney’s fees incurred by the property owner. This statute helps level the playing field between the government and property owners, especially when small claimants can hire an attorney to help them obtain just compensation.

Very few attorneys can claim expertise in the area of eminent domain law. If you’re affected by eminent domain, you should obtain a consultation from an eminent domain lawyer so that you know and understand your rights before taking any action. Remember, the government is like any buyer, they will want to purchase your property as cheaply as possible, and their appraisers may neglect to consider damages that can lead to a larger amount of just compensation. 


Washington is still highly in need of significant legislative reform, and the state needs to see solutions that will solidify the rights that private property owners are guaranteed in the state. Significant issues, like private transfers for economic development and the term “blight”  have yet to be addressed. When the state sees more positive legislative reform in this direction, property owners will secure protection.

Contact Us

Questions about Washington Eminent Domain Law or if you’re interested in a free consultation, contact us today! If you want to call us, our main number is 866-339-7242. We look forward to hearing from you.