B-241196, Apr 23, 1991

B-241196: Apr 23, 1991

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When the relocation service contractor's offer on the first residence an employee listed was unacceptable to the employee. We conclude that the first residence was her actual residence at the time of her notice of transfer. An agency acted within its discretion when it denied an employee an extension of temporary quarters subsistence expenses (TQSE) when a househunting trip was authorized and taken. Gilmore rejected that offer and asked to have her travel orders amended to authorize real estate expenses for a home on Country Place Drive. The dwelling at the old station must be the employee's actual residence at the time the employee was first definitely informed of the transfer. The purpose of these requirements is to ensure that the residence for which expenses are being claimed is in fact the employee's actual residence at the time of transfer.

B-241196, Apr 23, 1991

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Residence transaction expenses - Reimbursement - Eligibility - Residency DIGEST: 1. When the relocation service contractor's offer on the first residence an employee listed was unacceptable to the employee, she sought relocation expenses for the sale of a second residence in the same subdivision. The employee claimed that she occupied and regularly commuted from both homes. Since the record showed that she had owned the first residence for 10 years before purchasing the second residence 2 years before her transfer, she had listed the first residence as her official home on her request for relocations benefits, and she had made her contract for the purchase of a home at her new duty station contingent on the sale of her first residence, we conclude that the first residence was her actual residence at the time of her notice of transfer. CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Temporary quarters - Actual subsistence expenses - Eligibility - Extension subsistence expenses - Eligibility - Extension 2. An agency acted within its discretion when it denied an employee an extension of temporary quarters subsistence expenses (TQSE) when a househunting trip was authorized and taken, the employee had agreed to purchase a home with a closing after the authorized period of TQSE, and the employee made the closing contingent on the sale of her former residence.

Donjette Gilmore:

A United States Air Force Certifying Officer requests our decision on two issues arising from Ms. Donjette Gilmore's permanent change of station from Scott Air Force Base to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. /1/

Real estate expenses

Incident to her notice of transfer, Ms. Gilmore submitted an AF Form 1667 requesting relocation services and listed her residence as 2532 Wesmeade Drive, Maryland Heights, Missouri. She estimated the value of her home at $110,000. When the relocation company offered $90,000 for the property, Ms. Gilmore rejected that offer and asked to have her travel orders amended to authorize real estate expenses for a home on Country Place Drive. She stated that her family owns and maintains two residences in the same subdivision as a matter of personal convenience. She claims that she lived in both houses and alternated commuting from the two.

To qualify for real estate expenses incident to a transfer, the dwelling at the old station must be the employee's actual residence at the time the employee was first definitely informed of the transfer. Joint Travel Regulations (JTR), vol. 2, para. C14000-1.3 (Change No. 292, Feb. 1, 1990). Also, the residence must be the one from which the employee regularly commuted to and from work. JTR, para. C14000-1.6. The purpose of these requirements is to ensure that the residence for which expenses are being claimed is in fact the employee's actual residence at the time of transfer. Jack H. Miller, B-229427, Aug. 4, 1988.

Here, since Ms. Gilmore asserts that she occupied and regularly commuted from two homes, we must determine which of the two was the primary "actual residence" for purposes of the regulations. The record shows that the Gilmores had owned the Wesmeade home for 10 years before purchasing the Country Place Drive home in 1988, 2 years prior to her transfer. Upon notice of her transfer, Ms. Gilmore listed the Wesmeade home as her official residence on her request for relocation benefits. She also made the contract for the purchase of a home at her new duty station contingent on the sale of the Wesmeade home. In fact, Ms. Gilmore has advised us informally that her family still owns the Wesmeade home and that her husband still lives there. Based on these facts, we conclude that Ms. Gilmore's actual residence at the time of her notice of transfer was the house on Wesmeade, rather than the one on Country Place Drive.

Although Ms. Gilmore states that the relocation contractor's offer on her actual residence was unacceptable, we have declined to recognize an exception to the regulations based on conditions in the housing market. Cf. Robert M. Wood, B-236793, Sept. 29, 1989. Accordingly, Ms. Gilmore may not be reimbursed for real estate expenses incurred in the sale of her residence on Country Place Drive.

Extension of temporary quarters subsistence expenses

After notice of her transfer, Ms. Gilmore went on an authorized househunting trip at her new station and, on April 12, 1990, signed a contract for the purchase of a new home there. The contract called for a closing on or before May 30, 1990, with a daily price increase if the signing occurred after May 20, 1990. The contract was contingent on the sale of the Wesmeade residence. Because of a number of delays, the parties did not close on the sale until June 20, 1990.

The Air Force authorized 45 days of temporary quarters subsistence expenses (TQSE) for Ms. Gilmore, which expired May 23, 1990, and declined her request to extend her allowances through June 20, 1990. The Air Force's policy is not to extend TQSE when a househunting trip has been authorized, when an employee agrees to purchase a home with a closing after the authorized period of TQSE, or when an employee makes a closing contingent on the sale of the former residence.

Agencies have wide discretion to approve or disapprove extensions of TQSE. We will overturn an agency's decision only if it is arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to law. Peter A. Christ, B-235203, Jan. 2, 1990. See also John J. Goglia, B-235177, Aug. 23, 1989.

In this case, although Ms. Gilmore had incentives to close on May 20, 1990, the contract did contemplate the possibility of closing as late as May 30, 1990, 7 days after the expiration of Ms. Gilmore's TQSE, and was contingent on the sale of her former residence. Also, she had been authorized a househunting trip, which she took. Accordingly, we have no basis to overturn the Air Force's decision to deny the TQSE extension.

/1/ Captain R. G. Tangeman, USN, Director of the Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee, forwarded the request, assigned PDTATAC Control Number 90-07.