Featured News 2019 The Uniform Act (URA), Eminent Domain, & Condemnation

The Uniform Act (URA), Eminent Domain, & Condemnation

In 1970, Congress passed a federal law that set the standards for government-funded programs and projects that need to purchase real estate. This is known as the Uniform Act (URA). This law covers all cases involving a federally-funded project or project which requires people to leave their homes, businesses, or farms. Notably, the act gives protections to citizens by restricting the government’s power when acquiring, rehabilitating, or demolishing property on real estate.

What Does the Law Do?

The URA is based primarily on the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the Fifth Amendment states that "private property shall not be taken without payment of just compensation" and that "no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law."

Lawmakers designed the URA to provide fair treatment to people whose property is directly impacted by a federally funded project. The URA provides relocation assistance to provide displaced individuals for a place to stay after their property affected by a federal project. With this assistance, the federal government hopes to mitigate the emotional and financial impacts of being displaced from a home or business. The URA has provisions to make sure that no family is displaced unless safe, sanitary, and decent housing is available and affordable in their area.

Importantly, the URA provides provisions to help ensure that the government exercises acquisitions of properties by agreement instead of coercion.

How the Program Works

The URA requires that an agency appraises a property before negotiating terms with owners. An owner of a property must be invited and allowed to accompany the appraiser during the inspection of their property. Next, the owner must receive a written offer for purchase. This document must provide a fair amount of compensation and a detailed list of all assets that the government intends on purchasing. If the owner agrees, then the program must pay for the property before possessing it and reimburse any expenses that result from transferring the title deed.

Residential Relocation

The URA requires that residential tenants must receive help from relocation advisors. Additionally, residents must be notified of their moving date at least 90 days before it arrives. The federal government must pay for all moving expenses and replacement housing.

Business Relocations

For situations in which the government is taking over the land of a farm, office, non-profit, or another business, they must cover expenses needed to reestablish the business in a new location. As with residential properties, the government must provide a written notice at least 90 days before taking over a property.

What if Negotiations Fail?

If negotiations fail, agencies with eminent domain can choose to pursue condemnation. Eminent domain is a legal term used to refer to the government’s right to take control of privately-owned land, so it can be converted into public use. Condemnation allows the government to take control of a property with the permission of the owner. However, condemnation still requires the government to pay the property owner a fair amount. When a government agency can take control of a property using condemnation, it is usually in the best interest of a property owner to negotiate and accept offers while they still have the ability. Declining a negotiated offer could result in a property owner receiving a lower payment once the government exercises eminent domain rights.

If you think that the government is not honoring the URA during an attempted take over of your property, then it is time to hire a real estate attorney! Use our site to find one near you today.

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