Connecticut’s Uniform Relocation Assistance Act (URAA)

Attorneys, Public Adjusters, and Insureds alike have been dealing with municipalities’ efforts to charge property owners for relocation costs.  On March 28, 2018 Attorney Biller presented this topic to the Connecticut Association of Public Insurance Adjusters. The following are highlights of his presentation.

Brief Summary

The URAA or C.G.S.A. § 8-266 was enacted in 1971 for the purpose of establishing a uniform policy for the fair and equitable treatment of persons displaced by the acquisition of real property by state and local land acquisition programs, by building code enforcement activities, or by a program of voluntary rehabilitation of buildings or other improvements conducted pursuant to governmental supervision.

Connecticut’s Uniform Relocation Assistance Act (URAA)

Introduction

Under the URAA, a municipality must pay relocation benefits if it oversees a project that forces people to relocate. The Act applies to residential and business properties, including farms and property owned by non-profit organizations. The Act also applies to people who must relocate based on state or local government acquisition of their real property, code enforcement activities, or governmentally supervision of building rehabilitation programs. The scope of the act is not limited to building code enforcement, but rather, it includes all codes dealing with the health and safety requirements of buildings. Relocation benefits must compensate displaced people for reasonable moving expenses, direct losses of tangible personal property, and reasonable expenses in searching for a replacement residence.

 

      URAA Limitations

It is important to note that case law suggests that the protections afforded under the URAA do not apply in circumstances where repairs are readily available to promptly remedy the violation. In Matter of Wagner, 115 B.R. 403, 405 (D. Conn. 1990), the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Connecticut cited Dukes v. Durante, 192 Conn. 207 (1984), “if these repairs result in a very short displacement, the URAA is thereby not triggered. Indeed, when the effect of the repairs is to render the building safe, decent, and habitable, the purpose of the URAA is served without the aid of its benefits.” when addressing an issue of temporary displacement. In Matter of Wagner a tenant was displaced for 13 days from a multi-family dwelling due to fumes emitted by a furnace being repaired. Citing Dukes the court relieved the landlord of liability concluding that the URAA does not apply to short term displacements that coincide with repairs.

      Landlord Liability

If displacement occurs due to a landlord’s negligence or violation of a housing code, then the landlord is responsible for reimbursing at least a portion of the expenses incurred by the municipality in relocation. Under URAA §8-268 and §8-270, authorizes municipalities to place a lien on a landlord’s real property to secure reimbursement for URAA benefits provided. However, the exact amount a landlord is obligated to reimburse is not specified under §8-268, but it does state that the amount owed to lawfully displaced tenants as a result of code enforcement cannot exceed $4,000. This was exemplified in Haynes v. Rajala, 2003 WL 352969 (Conn. Super. 2003) where the court held a landlord liable for reimbursement costs incurred by the town of East Windsor due to the landlord’s code violation displacing a tenant. The court found the landlord liable for $4,000 even though the town of East Windsor’s expenses totaled $19,000.

Affirmative Defenses

If a landlord refuses to reimburse the governmental entity for payments made, under §8-270 the governmental entity can bring a civil action against the landlord in Superior Court. Under § 47a-7, if a unit is condemned due to no fault of the landlord, then the landlord can cite those facts as an affirmative defense. For example, if a landlord has complied with all of his duties and due to no fault of his own, the subject property suffers a fire or other casualty, the landlord has an affirmative defense under §47a-7. The municipality would then bear the liability for the benefits provided and would not be able to seek reimbursement from the landlord.