April 22, 2004
UNIFORM RELOCATION ASSISTANCE ACT
By: Joseph Holstead, Research Analyst
You asked us to summarize the Uniform Relocation Assistance Act (URAA) and provide its legislative history (including original intent). You also asked what (1) is the process by which a tenant would qualify for assistance and (2) are the obligations of municipalities, housing authorities, and landlords under the act.
The URAA establishes uniform policies to compensate people displaced from their homes or businesses by state and local government programs. A person is eligible for assistance if his home or business is displaced by land acquisition programs, code enforcement activities, or housing rehabilitation programs. The act requires the displacing agency to provide advisory assistance and financial benefits. People displaced from their homes or apartments are entitled to additional benefits. These payments are in addition to any amount the agency must pay the property owner when it condemns or otherwise acquires property. Application procedures vary from agency to agency.
A parallel federal law (42 U.S.C. 4601 et seq.) applies when activities that are wholly or partially federally-funded cause displacement. The state Department of Transportation (DOT) can follow the federal law even if federal funds are not involved. The benefits under the federal law are higher than those provided under state law (CGS § 8-273a).
We did not find records of committee discussion on the bill, which passed the House and Senate without debate on June 5 and 9, 1971 respectively. The law took effect July 6, 1971. Presumably the original intent was to fairly compensate those whose housing or businesses were displaced by state projects.
The act applies to people who must relocate themselves or their personal property as a result of:
1. state or local government acquisition of their real property,
2. code enforcement activities, or
3. governmental and governmentally-supervised building rehabilitation programs.
The act applies to residential and business property, including farms and property owned by nonprofit organizations (CGS § 8-267).
The act's provisions also apply to any project funded by the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) that will result in displacement. The entity seeking project funding must submit a residential antidisplacement and relocation assistance plan as part of its application for assistance (CGS § 8-37ll).
Under DOT regulations (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 8-273-1 et seq.), a representative of the department must contact each person who will be displaced by a DOT funded project as early as possible in the land acquisition process. The representative must explain the benefits for which the person is eligible, as determined by federal law. Relocation plans required by DECD must specify application procedures and notification requirements (CGS § 8-37ll). Other displacing agencies set their own application procedures. As discussed below, DOT serves as the appellate body for people who are aggrieved regarding relocation assistance in connection with transportation projects and DECD has this responsibility for other projects.
The displacing agency must provide an advisory assistance program for displaced people. As part of the program the agency must:
1. determine the need for relocation assistance;
2. provide information on the availability, prices, and rentals of comparable properties;
3. assist displaced businesses in becoming established in a suitable new location;
4. supply information on federal and state programs offering assistance; and
5. provide other services to minimize the hardship of relocation.
In addition, DOT (in the case of transportation projects) or DECD (for other projects) must ensure that there is adequate housing for the displaced people. Specifically, the departments must ensure, before displacement occurs, that (1) the number of replacement units equals the number of displaced households; (2) that the replacement units are decent, safe, and sanitary, and in areas that are at least as desirable as the individual's current neighborhood; and (3) the units are available at rents and prices that the displaced people can afford. A person cannot be forced to move from his home unless the relevant department determines that such replacement housing is available.
Basic Financial Assistance
The agency that causes the displacement must pay the displaced person:
1. his actual and reasonable expenses in moving his family, personal property, or business;
2. actual direct losses of personal property resulting from the move or from the closure of a business (up to the cost of relocating the property); and
3. actual and reasonable costs in searching for a replacement business.
Alternatively, the person displaced from his dwelling can claim a moving expense allowance of up to $300, set by the agency, and a dislocation allowance of $200. A person displaced from his business can claim an amount equal to his annual net income from the property, with a minimum of $2,500 and a maximum of $10,000. This option is only open to businesses that cannot be relocated without losing a substantial part of their patronage and is not available to businesses that are part of a chain. Property owners are also reimbursed for conveyance taxes, any mortgage prepayment penalty, and current property taxes.
Additional Benefits for People Displaced from Housing
The law provides additional benefits for people displaced from their dwellings. In the case of people who have owned their homes at least 180 days before acquisistion negotiations began, the acquiring agency must pay:
1. the amount needed, in addition to compensation for the acquired property, to buy a comparable home;
2. the cost of higher interest rates, if the home is mortgaged; and
3. reasonable closing costs for acquiring the replacement home, including the title search and recording fee.
The total payment can be no more than $ 15,000 ($ 22,500 in the case of DOT projects). Payments can only be made if the replacement home is bought within one year of the date the displaced person receives final payment for their home or moves into the new home, whichever is later.
For other people displaced from dwellings they have occupied for at least 90 days (owners or tenants) the acquiring agency must pay the rent for a comparable dwelling, up to a maximum of $4,000. Alternatively, the displaced person can claim up to $4,000 to make a downpayment on a home. If the assistance is above $2,000, the tenant must match the additional amount. The maximum benefit under either option for DOT projects is $5,250.
If the person disputes the adequacy of the assistance, he must request a reconsideration by the displacing agency. If he is still not satisfied, he can appeal to the DOT (in the case of transportation projects) or DECD commissioner (for other projects) and then to the courts.
STATE, MUNICIPAL, AND LANDLORD RESPONSIBILITIES
When a program or project that a state agency undertakes or supervises will displace anyone, the state agency head must pay the displaced person for actual (1) reasonable moving expenses for him, his family, business, farm operation, or other personal property; (2) direct losses of tangible personal property as a result of moving or discontinuing a business or farm operation (not exceeding an amount equal to the reasonable relocation expenses, as determined by the state agency; and (3) reasonable expenses in searching for a replacement business or farm (CGS § 8-268).
The law requires a landlord to repay reasonable expenses that the town, city, or borough where his property is located, or the state, paid to any tenant in any dwelling unit displaced due to code enforcement violations. The town, city, borough, or the state may place a lien on any real property owned by the landlord to secure reimbursement (CGS § 8-268 and 270). A town, city, borough, or the state may sue a landlord to recover payments due and compensation for the costs, including attorney fees, of bringing the suit. The law provides the landlord an affirmative defense that he did not cause the displacement because he did not violate his statutory responsibilities (CGS § 8-270a).