Does Eminent Domain Provide Relocation Benefits?

Centuries of eminent domain law clearly establish that the government must pay you fair market value if they are taking your land for public use. However, there are other costs that you must bear when you have to move from your home that the government is taking.

Relocation can be prohibitively expensive, depending on how many possessions you have and where you are going. The government may need to pay for some or all of your relocation expenses as part of the compensation that they owe you. Contact our eminent domain lawyer in South Carolina if you have received a communication that states the government intends to take your property.

The Government Must Pay You Fair Compensation to Move You

In many cases, the property taken for eminent domain is not just land. It could be your home or business that was taken. However, you would still need a place to live or a location for your business. Paying for what was taken should also factor in what you may need to spend to start again.

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that “private property shall not be taken without payment of just compensation.” There is much more than just compensation for the land that is at issue. There are other expenses that must also be paid according to federal law.

In 1970, Congress passed the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act (URARPAPA). The law applies when eminent domain involves a project that is relying on federal funding. The statute both provides procedures for federal eminent domain takings and covers relocation costs.

The law was intended to address a lack of uniformity and inequalities in how displacees were treated in the wake of a large number of eminent domain projects in the late 1960s. Many of these people ended up in substandard and squalid conditions. Congress intended to remedy that by providing one uniform set of procedures for federally funded projects.

Requirements for Relocation Compensation Under Federal Law

URARPAPA requires the following when federal funds are being used for residential eminent domain:

  • Tenants must receive help from relocation advisors.
  • Tenants must be given a move date that is at least 90 days in advance.
  • The federal government must pay for relocation costs.
  • The federal government must pay for replacement housing.

However, the payments for replacement housing are limited by federal law. For those who are purchasing a home, the agency is obligated to pay up to $31,000. For those who are renting, the agency must pay up to $7,200 for replacement housing (which, these days, is barely enough to cover several months’ rent, although the prior renter could use it towards a down payment on a new home).

In addition, the government must also pay these additional costs:

  • Any additional interest costs if you had to take out a new mortgage
  • Reasonable expenses incurred by such displaced person for evidence of title, recording fees, and other closing costs

If you owned a business, the government may have to pay different expenses associated with the relocation.

  • First, the government must also provide at least 90 days’ notice before taking the property.
  • Second, the government must pay the expenses needed to establish the business in the new location.

The full extent of these expenses may be debatable, and they could be an area of controversy when it comes to determining the full amount of compensation that you are due.

The Application of the Federal Law to South Carolina

The answer to whether South Carolina applies URARPAPA is that it depends. South Carolina does not necessarily make the URARPAPA the law of the state.

Shortly after the law was passed, a request was made to the state Attorney General at the time about whether the South Carolina State agencies will comply with the requirements of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies. The response from the Attorney General was:

“It is the opinion of this Office, on and after the date July 1, 1972, State agencies of South Carolina and political subdivisions thereof can comply with the requirements of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970.”

There are some municipalities in the state that have incorporated the requirement to comply with URARPAPA as part of their codes. In addition, South Carolina state law also allows the state to expend public funds when URARPAPA applies, regardless of whether those funds are federal in nature. If any state taking property is relying on federal funds, the state must pay relocation costs.

Relocation Expenses Should Be a Part of Your Negotiations

You must consider relocation expenses when you are negotiating compensation with the government. We use the word “negotiate” because that is exactly what you have the right to do.

The government does not have the right to dictate to you what you get when it means paying you less than fair market value for your property.

If the government is not fairly compensating you for relocation costs, hire an attorney to file a lawsuit. You have the ability to challenge both the taking itself and the compensation that the government is offering you. An attorney can estimate your relocation costs and what the government may owe you.

Remember, the fact that the law says that the government may offer up to a certain amount does not mean that they will pay you exactly that.

Contact a South Carolina Eminent Domain Attorney Today

You need an attorney who has experience in eminent domain cases if you are going to take on the government. Officials have their own lawyers who have experience defending government actions in both state and federal court.

West Law Firm Personal Injury Lawyers represents South Carolina property owners in eminent domain cases. You should retain us as soon as you realize that you are having some type of disagreement with the government. Call us today at 843-483-8630 or message us online to schedule a time to speak with a lawyer.

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