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Disputes over eligibility for relocation assistance are now required to be heard at a contested case hearing.
(Published Sep 19, 2012)
The 2012 Legislature unanimously passed legislation clarifying provisions of the Uniform Relocation Assistance Act (URA) related to landowner appeals of relocation assistance awards. Cities should note that the legislation, Chapter 184 (SF 1620), became effective on April 19, 2012, and applies to claims pending on or made after that date.
The URA is part of the eminent domain statute (Chapter 117), although it applies more broadly. The URA requires that acquiring authorities provide certain relocation costs to landowners when acquiring property through any means, including negotiation with the landowner, not simply through eminent domain. The question of whether a landowner qualifies for relocation assistance is largely determined by federal law because Minnesota Statutes incorporates federal regulations on the issue.
When an entity acquires land from a landowner, the acquiring authority must make a determination whether the landowner is entitled to relocation assistance, and then must make an offer of payment. The previous version of Minnesota Statutes, section 117.52, subdivision 4, stated that “if a person entitled to relocation assistance . . . does not accept the acquiring authority’s offer, the acquiring authority must initiate contested case proceedings” for a determination of the relocation assistance that must be provided. The acquiring authority must pay the costs of the contested case hearing.
If a landowner disputed the amount offered, it was clear under this language that the matter would be settled through Minnesota’s contested case hearing process. It was not clear, however, whether a landowner had a right to a contested case hearing if the acquiring authority denied eligibility completely because the landowner was not “entitled” to the assistance.
In cases of denial, some authorities initiated contested case hearings while others provided for an alternative appeals process. Proponents of the legislation questioned the fairness of this process, and asked the Legislature to clarify the law so that a landowner who was denied relocation assistance had the same right to a contested case hearing as a landowner who disagreed with the amount of assistance offered. Legislators believed that this was the intent of the law and made the clarifying changes.
Contact Patrick Hynes
(651) 281-1260 or (800) 925-1122
(651) 281-1227 or (800) 925-1122
Each edition of the Focus on New Laws column highlights a law passed in the 2012 legislative session that cities need to know about. Please be sure to always consult your city attorney with technical questions about compliance with laws. For more information about new laws, check out the League’s 2012 Law Summaries (pdf).