B-172055, MAY 28, 1971

B-172055: May 28, 1971

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THE ATTORNEY'S STATEMENT WHICH CONTAINS AN ITEMIZATION OF THE SERVICES CONCERNED BUT DOES NOT SHOW THE CHARGES FOR EACH OF THESE SERVICES BECAUSE THE FEE WAS BASED ON A "SCHEDULE OF FEES" ESTABLISHED BY THE MASSACHUSETTS CONVEYANCERS ASSOCIATION WHICH IS A PERCENTAGE OF THE SALE PRICE IS INSUFFICIENT TO ESTABLISH THE AMOUNT DUE CLAIMANT WHEN NOT ALL OF THE SERVICES ARE REIMBURSABLE UNDER OMB CIRCULAR NO. EDITH ALBRITTAIN: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER DATED FEBRUARY 26. WEINREB WAS TRANSFERRED FROM NEEDHAM. AN ITEM FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES FOR $360 IN CONNECTION WITH THE SALE OF THAT PROPERTY WAS SUSPENDED PENDING RECEIPT FROM MR. THE PURPOSES FOR WHICH LEGAL FEES ARE ALLOWABLE IN CONNECTION WITH REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS ARE GOVERNED BY SECTION 4.2C OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET CIRCULAR NO.

B-172055, MAY 28, 1971

CIVILIAN EMPLOYEE - CHANGE OF STATION - ATTORNEY'S FEES DENYING CLAIM OF MICHAEL P. WEINREB FOR REIMBURSEMENT FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES PAID IN CONNECTION WITH THE SALE OF HIS HOUSE INCIDENT TO A PERMANENT CHANGE OF STATION FROM NEEDHAM, MASS., TO SUITLAND, MD. THE ATTORNEY'S STATEMENT WHICH CONTAINS AN ITEMIZATION OF THE SERVICES CONCERNED BUT DOES NOT SHOW THE CHARGES FOR EACH OF THESE SERVICES BECAUSE THE FEE WAS BASED ON A "SCHEDULE OF FEES" ESTABLISHED BY THE MASSACHUSETTS CONVEYANCERS ASSOCIATION WHICH IS A PERCENTAGE OF THE SALE PRICE IS INSUFFICIENT TO ESTABLISH THE AMOUNT DUE CLAIMANT WHEN NOT ALL OF THE SERVICES ARE REIMBURSABLE UNDER OMB CIRCULAR NO. A 56.

TO MRS. EDITH ALBRITTAIN:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER DATED FEBRUARY 26, 1971 (FILE REFERENCE AD571X17), WITH ENCLOSURES, IN WHICH YOU REQUEST AN ADVANCE DECISION AS TO THE PROPRIETY OF AUTHORIZING PAYMENT ON A VOUCHER SUBMITTED BY MR. MICHAEL P. WEINREB IN THE AMOUNT OF $360, REPRESENTING ATTORNEY'S FEES CHARGED IN CONNECTION WITH THE SALE OF HIS HOUSE INCIDENT TO AN AUTHORIZED PERMANENT CHANGE OF STATION.

THE INFORMATION ON RECORD SHOWS THAT MR. WEINREB WAS TRANSFERRED FROM NEEDHAM, MASSACHUSETTS, TO SUITLAND, MARYLAND, PURSUANT TO TRAVEL ORDER NO. 1-S000060, DATED AUGUST 6, 1970, WHICH AUTHORIZED TRAVEL ON A PERMANENT CHANGE OF STATION. AS A RESULT OF THIS CHANGE OF STATION, MR. WEINREB INCURRED CERTAIN EXPENSES IN THE SALE OF HIS HOME AT HIS OLD STATION. OF THE AMOUNT CLAIMED ON THE ORIGINAL VOUCHER, AN ITEM FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES FOR $360 IN CONNECTION WITH THE SALE OF THAT PROPERTY WAS SUSPENDED PENDING RECEIPT FROM MR. WEINREB OF AN ITEMIZED ACCOUNTING OF EACH OF THE SERVICES PERFORMED BY THE ATTORNEY.

MR. WEINREB HAS ATTEMPTED TO COMPLY WITH THAT REQUEST AND BY LETTER DATED JANUARY 18, 1971, ADVISED THAT HIS ATTORNEY WOULD NOT ITEMIZE THE BILL TO CONFORM WITH THE TRAVEL REGULATIONS AND AS A RESULT REQUESTS THAT THE GOVERNMENT REIMBURSE HIM AN AMOUNT IT DEEMS REASONABLE AND FAIR FOR SUCH SERVICES.

THE PURPOSES FOR WHICH LEGAL FEES ARE ALLOWABLE IN CONNECTION WITH REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS ARE GOVERNED BY SECTION 4.2C OF THE OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET CIRCULAR NO. A-56, REVISED JUNE 29, 1969. THAT SUBSECTION READS IN PERTINENT PART:

"LEGAL AND RELATED COSTS. TO THE EXTENT SUCH COSTS HAVE NOT BEEN INCLUDED IN BROKERS' OR SIMILAR SERVICES *** THE FOLLOWING EXPENSES ARE REIMBURSABLE WITH RESPECT TO THE SALE AND PURCHASE OF RESIDENCES *** COSTS OF (1) SEARCHING TITLE, PREPARING ABSTRACT, AND LEGAL FEES FOR A TITLE OPINION, OR (2) WHERE CUSTOMARILY FURNISHED BY THE SELLER, THE COST OF A TITLE INSURANCE POLICY; COSTS OF PREPARING CONVEYANCES, OTHER INSTRUMENTS, AND CONTRACTS; RELATED NOTARY FEES AND RECORDING FEES; COSTS OF MAKING SURVEYS, PREPARING DRAWINGS OR PLATS WHEN REQUIRED FOR LEGAL OR FINANCING PURPOSES, AND SIMILAR EXPENSES. *** "

WE HAVE HELD THAT THE FEE WHICH AN EMPLOYEE PAYS TO RETAIN AN ATTORNEY TO REPRESENT AND COUNSEL HIM IN CONNECTION WITH A REAL ESTATE TRANSACTION PROPERLY MAY NOT BE REIMBURSED UNDER THE ABOVE-QUOTED SECTION. ONLY THOSE PARTS OF AN ATTORNEY'S FEE WHICH REPRESENT SERVICES OF THE TYPES ENUMERATED ARE REIMBURSABLE. SEE B-161891, AUGUST 21, 1967; B-163203, MARCH 1, 1968, AND MARCH 24, 1969; B-163690, MARCH 29, 1968; AND B-169621, JUNE 25, 1970.

THE RECORD SHOWS THAT THE ORIGINAL STATEMENT FROM THE ATTORNEY, WHILE IT CONTAINS AN ITEMIZATION OF THE SERVICES CONCERNED, DOES NOT SHOW THE CHARGES FOR EACH OF THESE SERVICES. FURTHER, THE RECORD SHOWS THAT THE ATTORNEY RESPONDED TO THE REQUEST FOR ITEMIZATION BY LETTER DATED DECEMBER 4, 1970, STATING THAT " *** I AM UNABLE TO COMPLY WITH YOUR REQUEST FOR A BREAKDOWN ON MY BILL FOR SERVICES RENDERED *** MY FEE WAS BASED ON A 'SCHEDULE OF FEES' ESTABLISHED BY THE MASSACHUSETTS CONVEYANCERS ASSOCIATION *** (WHICH IS) A PERCENTAGE OF THE SALES PRICE."

OF THE VARIOUS SERVICES PERFORMED IN CONNECTION WITH THE SALE OF MR. WEINREB'S FORMER RESIDENCE ONLY THAT TIME RELATING TO THE PREPARATION OF THE PURCHASE AND SALE AGREEMENT APPEARS TO BE A REIMBURSABLE ITEM UNDER SECTION 4.2C OF THE ABOVE-QUOTED REGULATIONS. HOWEVER, SINCE THE ATTORNEY FAILED TO IDENTIFY THE CHARGE APPLICABLE TO THAT ITEM, NO PART OF THE VOUCHER IS ALLOWABLE. ACCORDINGLY, THE VOUCHER, RETURNED HEREWITH, MAY NOT BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT.

WE APPRECIATE THAT CERTAIN INEQUITIES COULD ARISE IN CASES SUCH AS THIS, WHERE CHARGES APPLICABLE TO OTHERWISE REIMBURSABLE ITEMS UNDER 4.2C WERE NOT DELINEATED BY THE ATTORNEY. HOWEVER, SINCE THE NUMBER OF REQUIRED SERVICE ITEMS AND THE CHARGES FOR EACH CAN VARY FROM STATE TO STATE, IT WOULD BE IMPRACTICAL IF NOT ALTOGETHER IMPOSSIBLE FOR THIS OFFICE TO ESTABLISH A HYPOTHETICAL CHARGE FOR THESE SERVICES THAT WOULD BE IN ANY WAY REPRESENTATIVE OR APPLY TO ALL CASES. IT SEEMS TO US THAT AN ATTORNEY COULD AT LEAST FURNISH AN ESTIMATE OF THE AMOUNT THAT REASONABLY COULD BE ALLOTTED TO THE SERVICES FOR WHICH REIMBURSEMENT IS AUTHORIZED BY THE REGULATIONS.