What are relocation assistance benefits?

When your business, farm, or nonprofit organization is forced to move due to a government taking, you may be entitled to payment for certain expenses related to your move to a new property.  Tenants of property that will be displaced are also eligible for relocation benefits.   See generally 49 C.F.R. Part 24; 42 U.S.C. § 4601, et seq.

How do I become eligible to receive relocation benefits?

To be eligible to receive relocation benefits, you must be considered a “displaced person” as defined in 49 C.F.R. § 24.2(a)(9): “any person who moves from the real property or moves his or her personal property from the real property.”  Once the government requires you to leave your real property, or move your personal property, the government must give you a relocation plan, which should include a general description of the relocation payment(s) for which you may be eligible. 

How do I become eligible to receive relocation benefits?

The date of your eligibility for relocation assistance begins with the occurrence of any of three separate events, whichever occurs first: 1) the date of an agency’s notice of intent to acquire the real property; 2) the date of initiation of negotiations for the agency to acquire the real property; or 3) the date of the agency’s actual acquisition of the real property.  When the triggering event occurs, the agency is required to notify you in writing of your eligibility for applicable relocation assistance.  See 49 C.F.R. § 24.203.

What must the government do, or provide, before I am forced to relocate?

First, the government must have completed a relocation plan, including solutions to any problems associated with displacement, prior to taking such action.  See 42 U.S.C. § 4625; 49 C.F.R. § 24.205.  This means that prior to the agency entering on to your property to begin its project planning or actual construction, it must have finalized a plan to complete your relocation to another property.  The agency also must comply with all provisions relating to notices to be given to the displaced person as set forth in 49 C.F.R. § 24.203. 

What type of expenses are covered as relocation payments?

The description of eligible and ineligible moving and related expenses for non-residential moves is set forth in 49 C.F.R. § 24.301.  For non-residential moves, additional eligible expenses are set forth in 49 C.F.R. § 24.303, but it should be noted that these expenses are only eligible if the government determines that they are actual, reasonable, and necessary.  Generally speaking, displaced businesses and farms are eligible to receive payments for expenses related to the actual move.  These include, but are not limited to: labor; equipment; packing and unpacking of personal property; storage of personal property; disconnecting and reinstalling personal property; insurance for personal property in connection with the move and storage; and replacement value of personal property that is lost, stolen, or damaged in the process of moving (not through the fault or negligence of the displaced person). 

Are there limits on the amounts that I can recover for relocation benefits?

Federal laws and regulations place no cap, or maximum amount, on the amount of moving expense payments a displaced business may receive.  In addition to moving expenses, a small business, farm, or nonprofit organization may be eligible to receive a payment for expenses actually incurred in reestablishing the business, farm, or nonprofit organization at a replacement site.  See 49 C.F.R. § 24.304; 42 US.C. § 4622(a).  Unlike moving expenses, reestablishment expense payments are capped at a maximum amount.  However, it is wise to consult the displacing agency’s applicable manual, as South Carolina Department of Transportation (“SCDOT”), for example, implements a $50,000 cap on reestablishment expense payments.

What must I do in order to receive payment for my relocation expenses?

Generally, you must submit a form to the government listing the expenses that you believe you are entitled to payment for.  Any claim for payment must be supported by documentation such as bills, appraisals, estimates, or other evidence.  For tenants of the real property, all claims for a relocation payment must be submitted no later than eighteen (18) months after the date of displacement.  For owners of the real property, claims must be submitted no later than eighteen (18) months after the date of displacement or the date of the final payment for the acquisition of the property, whichever is later.  See 49 C.F.R. § 24.207.

Note: In addition to 49 C.F.R. Part 24 and 42 U.S.C. § 4601, et seq., as well as other relevant state and federal laws and regulations, the displaced entity should consult any applicable manual or related publication of the displacing agency.  For example, if you are being displaced due to a South Carolina Department of Transportation (“SCDOT”) project, it is recommended that you consult the SCDOT Relocation Assistance Manual, which can be found on their website, www.scdot.org.

DISCLAIMER:  This document is designed for general information only.  The information presented in this document should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney/client relationship.