The Uniform Relocation Assistance and Land Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 (“Act”) provides a uniform policy for the fair and equitable treatment of persons displaced by federally funded or assisted programs[i].
Displaced persons include both individuals and businesses. Individuals displaced, however, receive greater protection under the Act than do businesses. Further, the language of the Act makes it clear that it applies only in cases in which there has been an acquisition of property[ii].
The purpose of the Act is to establish a uniform policy for the fair and equitable treatment of persons displaced as a result of Federal programs in order that such persons should not suffer disproportionate injury as a result of programs designed for the benefit of the public.
The provision of the Act is designed to promote public confidence in government acquisition procedures and uniform treatment of people who sell land to the government[iii].
Under the scheme created by the Act, a dislocated business may either relocate or discontinue operations. In either event, reimbursement is based in part on actual direct losses of tangible personal property as a result of moving or discontinuing a business but not to exceed an amount equal to the reasonable expenses that would have been required to relocate such property[iv].
A person scheduled to be displaced is furnished with a general written description of the displacing agency’s relocation program which at least informs the person that s/he[v]:
- may be displaced for the project, and generally describes the relocation payments for which the person may be eligible, the basic conditions of eligibility, and the procedures for obtaining the payments;
- will be given reasonable relocation advisory services, including referrals to replacement properties, help in filing payment claims, and other necessary assistance to help the person successfully relocate;
- will not be required to move without at least 90 days’ advance written notice, and informs any person to be displaced from a dwelling that s/he cannot be required to move permanently unless at least one comparable replacement dwelling has been made available;
- if an alien not lawfully present in the U.S., is ineligible for relocation advisory services and relocation payments, unless such ineligibility would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to a qualifying spouse, parent, or child; and
- has the right to appeal the acquiring or displacing agency’s determination as to a person’s application for assistance for which a person may be eligible under the regulations.
Eligibility for relocation assistance begins on the date of a notice of intent to acquire, the initiation of negotiations, or actual acquisition, whichever occurs first[vi]. When this occurs, the Agency promptly notifies all occupants in writing of their eligibility for applicable relocation assistance. No lawful occupant is required to move unless s/he has received at least 90 days advance written notice of the earliest date by which s/he may be required to move.
In certain unlikely circumstances, an occupant may be required to vacate the property on less than 90 days advance written notice if the displacing Agency determines that a 90-day notice is impracticable, such as when the person’s continued occupancy of the property would constitute a substantial danger to health or safety.
A displaced person who makes proper application for a payment authorized for such person by the Act shall be paid promptly following receipt of sufficient documentation to support the claim[vii]. An advance relocation payment in order to avoid or reduce a hardship is made if a person demonstrates the need, subject to such safeguards as are appropriate to ensure that the objective of the payment is accomplished.
42 U.S.C.S. § 4625, provides that:
- whenever the acquisition of real property for a program or project undertaken by a federal agency in any state will result in the displacement of any person, the head of such agency should provide a relocation assistance advisory program for displaced persons. If such agency head determines that any person occupying property immediately adjacent to the real property acquired is caused substantial economic injury because of the acquisition, s/he may offer such person relocation advisory services under such program[viii].
- Federal agencies administering programs which may be of assistance to displaced persons should cooperate to the maximum extent feasible with the federal or state agency causing the displacement to assure that such displaced persons receive the maximum assistance available to them.
Whenever a program or project undertaken by a displacing agency results in the displacement of a person, the head of the displacing agency must provide for payment to the displaced person for such items as:
- moving and related expenses.
- replacement housing for homeowners including mortgage insurance.
- replacement housing for tenants and certain other displaced persons.
- relocation planning, assistance coordination, and advisory services.
- last resort housing replacement by the federal agency.
The head of the displacing agency should provide for the payment to the displaced person of[ix]:
- actual reasonable expenses in moving himself, his family, business, farm operation, or other personal property;
- actual direct losses of tangible personal property as a result of moving or discontinuing a business or farm operation, but not to exceed an amount equal to the reasonable expenses that would have been required to relocate such property, as determined by the head of the agency;
- actual reasonable expenses in searching for a replacement business or farm; and
- actual reasonable expenses necessary to reestablish a displaced farm, nonprofit organization, or small business at its new site, but not to exceed $ 10,000.
A replacement housing payment is personal to the displaced person and upon his/her death the undisbursed portion of any such payment is not paid to the heirs or assigns, except that[x]:
- The amount attributable to the displaced person’s period of actual occupancy of the replacement housing is paid.
- Any remaining payment is disbursed to the remaining family members of the displaced household in any case in which a member of a displaced family dies.
- Any portion of a replacement housing payment necessary to satisfy the legal obligation of an estate in connection with the selection of a replacement dwelling by or on behalf of a deceased person is disbursed to the estate.
42 U.S.C.S. § 4625 (c) provides that each relocation assistance advisory program should include such measures, facilities, or services as may be necessary or appropriate in order to:
- determine the need, of displaced persons, for relocation assistance;
- provide current and continuing information on the availability, prices, and rentals, of comparable decent, safe, and sanitary sales and rental housing, and of comparable commercial properties and locations for displaced businesses;
- assure that, within a reasonable period of time, prior to displacement there will be available in areas in regard to public utilities, decent, safe, and sanitary dwellings, equal in number to the number of persons who require such dwellings and reasonably accessible to their places of employment, except that the head of that federal agency may prescribe by regulation situations when such assurances may be waived.
- the government’s relocation assistance advisory program must assist a displaced person displaced from his/her business or farm operation in obtaining and becoming established in a suitable relocation.
- supply information concerning federal and state housing programs, disaster loan programs, and other federal or state programs offering assistance to displaced persons; and
- provide other advisory services to displaced persons in order to minimize hardships to such persons in adjusting to relocation.
42 U.S.C.S. § 4625 (d) provides that the heads of federal agencies should coordinate relocation activities with project work and other planned or proposed governmental actions in the community or nearby areas which may affect the carrying out of relocation assistance programs.
Further, whenever real property is acquired by a state agency and furnished as a required contribution incident to a federal program or project, the federal agency having authority over the program or project may not accept such property unless the state agency has made all payments and provided all assistance and assurances as required of a state agency by statute[xi].
Similarly, whenever a program or project cannot proceed on a timely basis because comparable replacement dwellings are not available within the monetary limits for owners or tenants, the Agency, as appropriate, should provide additional or alternative assistance[xii].
42 U.S.C.S. § 4633 provides that in order to promote uniform and effective administration of relocation assistance and land acquisition of state or local housing agencies, or other agencies having programs or projects by federal agencies or programs or projects by state agencies receiving federal financial assistance, the heads of federal agencies should consult together on the establishment of regulations and procedures for the implementation of such programs.
Pursuant to 42 U.S.C.S. § 4633 (b) the head of each federal agency is authorized to establish such regulations and procedures as s/he may determine to be necessary to assure:
- that the payments and assistance authorized is administered in a manner which is fair and reasonable, and as uniform as practicable;
- that a displaced person who makes proper application for a payment authorized for such person is paid promptly after a move or, in hardship cases, be paid in advance; and
- that any person aggrieved by a determination as to eligibility for a payment may have his application reviewed by the head of the federal agency having authority over the applicable program or project, or in the case of a program or project receiving federal financial assistance, by the head of the state agency.
42 U.S.C.S. § 4633(b)(3), provides for judicial review when a person is aggrieved as to a determination as to his eligibility for payment or the amount of payment due him under the Act. However, judicial review is appropriate only after administrative remedies have been exhausted.
As per 42 U.S.C.S. § 4636, no payment received under the Act is considered as income for the purposes of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954.
[i] American Dry Cleaners & Laundry, Inc. v. United States Dep’t of Transp., 722 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. N.C. 1983).
[ii] Consumers Power Co. v. Costle, 468 F. Supp. 375 ( E.D. Mich. 1979).
[iii] Vournas v. United States, 10 Cl. Ct. 591 (Cl. Ct. 1986).
[iv] Strogoff v. United States, 10 Cl. Ct. 584 (Cl. Ct. 1986).
[v] 49 CFR 24.203 (a).
[vi] 49 CFR 24.203 (b).
[vii] 49 CFR 24.207.
[viii] Smith v. Cookeville, 381 F. Supp. 100 (M.D. Tenn. 1974).
[ix] 42 USCS § 4622.
[x] 49 CFR 24.403.
[xi] 42 USCS § 4627.
[xii] 49 CFR 24.404.