Washington Supreme Court Says No to Condemnations for Private Use
In 1993, the Washington state legislature passed a law that gave mobile home park tenants a right of first refusal when a park owner decides to sell the mobile home park. Manufactured Housing Communities of Washington, an association of mobile home park owners, brought a declaratory judgment action against the State two years later, arguing that the act creates an unconstitutional taking of property for private use. The trial court and state Court of Appeals both upheld the constitutionality of the act. However, in November 2000 the Washington Supreme Court reversed the lower court rulings, and held the act to be unconstitutional.1
The high court held that giving the right of first refusal to tenants transferred a valuable right from one private citizen to another.2 The court explained that the “eminent domain provision of the Washington Constitution provides a complete restriction against taking private property for private use.” Moreover, the court held, “[t]his prohibition is not conditioned on payment of compensation…. Hence, this absolute prohibition against taking private property for private use…requires invalidation of the statute.”3 This decision was in keeping with other Washington cases that similarly forbade the condemnation of property for the primary purpose of transferring the land to private business.4
1 See Manufactured Housing Communities v. Washington, 13 P.3d 183 (Wash. 2000).
2 See id. at 194-95.
3 Id. at 190.
4 In Re Petition of Seattle, 638 P.2d 549, 556-57 (Wash. 1981; Hogue v. Port of Seattle, 341 P.2d 171, 181-191 (Wash. 1959).