WHEN A GOVERNMENT PROJECT FORCES YOUR BUSINESS TO MOVE
At times, government projects can have the unfortunate result of forcing businesses to relocate. Fortunately, state or federal assistance is often made available to help defray moving and related expenses. This is called relocation assistance. However, as is often the case in the law, the good news comes wrapped in regulations and limitations that can be confusing to navigate. This comment discusses the basics of business relocation assistance in South Carolina.
“Location, Location, Location” For businesses that depend on catching the motorist’s eye, drop-in traffic, convenience, or easy access, it’s “location, location, location.” Locating along a main artery in a busy commercial or retail district near a growing population may be the exact formula for creating a successful business. At the same time, it is also true that growth leads to traffic, traffic leads to strain on existing roadways, and strain on existing roadways leads to government projects to expand those roadways.
Where road frontage was once your greatest asset, now it could put your business at risk of having to relocate because the future roadway will be running right through your existing building or parking lot. When that happens, it is fair to ask if the government, after forcing you to move, has any responsibility to pay for that move. While it was not always the case historically, the answer today is that when a government project displaces your business, the government bears the financial responsibility to help you move—with limitations, of course.
What Assistance Is Available? South Carolina has a relocation assistance statute that adopts the Federal Uniform Relocation Assistance Act for all government projects regardless of whether state or federal dollars are paying for the project. The principal source of information on relocation assistance in South Carolina is the South Carolina Department of Transportation’s publicly available Relocation Assistance Manual. There are four categories of expenses that are typically covered for business moves:
Your replacement location may be in need of repair or it may not exactly meet your business needs. When this is the case, reestablishment expenses can help cover items such as repairs or improvements to the replacement location, modifications to make the replacement location suitable for your business, or replacing worn surfaces like carper or paint. If your business decides not to relocate, or is unable to, you may be eligible for an in-lieu-of payment depending on how many other business locations you have and based on the average annual net earnings over the past two years. In-lieu-of payments are capped at $40,000.
There are many other contours of relocation assistance that are beyond the scope of this comment and that will vary based on your unique business.
The bad news is that government projects can force businesses to relocate. The good news, or slightly less bad news, is that the government typically pays for a number of these expenses.
Our firm has experience navigating the contours of relocation assistance and would be pleased to talk with you about your unique situation. Find out how Lewis Babcock L.L.P. can help.
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