B-244730, Jan 17, 1992

B-244730: Jan 17, 1992

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Which was under contract with DEA to provide services to its transferred employees. The total fee for the legal services was $451.90. His claim was denied by the agency on the basis that the legal services claimed by Mr. Maher were similar to the cost of services that the agency would have to pay the relocation services company under its contract with that company. OPINION We have held that an employee is entitled to reasonable attorney fees for advisory and representational services rendered in connection with the purchase or sale of a residence. We have not specifically dealt with the allowability of such fees when they are incurred by the employee in negotiating a purchase of his residence by a relocation services contractor.

B-244730, Jan 17, 1992

DIGEST: PRECIS-UNAVAILABLE

Matthew J. Maher - Residence Sales Transaction Relocation Service Company Attorneys Fee:

Mr. Matthew J. Maher, a transferred employee of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), seeks reimbursement for legal fees he incurred in connection with the sale of his residence through the agency's relocation services company.

We deny the claim.

FACTS

Pursuant to a permanent change of station, Mr. Maher obtained a buyer for his old residence and entered into a contract of sale with the buyer; he then assigned the contract of sale along with the transfer of ownership of his residence to a relocation services company, which was under contract with DEA to provide services to its transferred employees. Before agreeing to accept the services of the agency's relocation services company, Mr. Maher retained an attorney to review the documents pertaining to the sale of his residence and the assignment of the sale to the relocation company.

The total fee for the legal services was $451.90, for which Mr. Maher claimed reimbursement from DEA. His claim was denied by the agency on the basis that the legal services claimed by Mr. Maher were similar to the cost of services that the agency would have to pay the relocation services company under its contract with that company.

OPINION

We have held that an employee is entitled to reasonable attorney fees for advisory and representational services rendered in connection with the purchase or sale of a residence. John C. Bisbee, 65 Comp.Gen. 473 (1986) and FTR, 41 C.F.R. Sec. 302-6.2 (c) (1991). However, we have not specifically dealt with the allowability of such fees when they are incurred by the employee in negotiating a purchase of his residence by a relocation services contractor.

In this connection, the FTR provides that an employee who uses the services of a relocation services contractor provided by his agency may not be reimbursed for those expenses which are similar or analogous to the cost of services that the agency will pay for under its contract. FTR, 41 C.F.R. Sec. 302-12.5(b) (1991). Thus, in James T. Faith, 67 Comp.Gen. 453 (1988), we held that an employee who had his old residence appraised before he agreed to use the services of his agency's relocation contractor could not be reimbursed since the contractor had the property appraised as part of its contract with the agency. Also, in Harold R. Harrod, B-238121, Feb. 1, 1990, we denied a claim for reimbursement of expenses an employee incurred in obtaining an independent inspection of his residence which he used to negotiate with a relocation contractor concerning the cost of necessary repairs.

Mr. Maher argues that the FTR prohibition does not apply to his claim. He argues that he used his own attorney to make sure that he could legally assign his contract of sale to the relocation company and to clarify when he would receive his equity if he did use the relocation contractor. states that the relocation contractor was not very helpful to him until his attorney intervened and obtained a written clarification from the contractor as to the equity issue. In any event, Mr. Maher argues that until he signed a contract of sale with the relocation contractor he was entitled to engage his own attorney for counseling and advice as to whether he should transfer his residence to that contractor.

We understand Mr. Maher's desire to seek legal advice from his own attorney before he committed himself to the relocation contractor. However, we regard the services he obtained as being for his own benefit rather than to satisfy a requirement for the transfer of his property. Harold R. Harrod, supra; See Anna L. Janni, B-236571, Nov. 9, 1989.

Essentially, Mr. Maher is seeking reimbursement for the cost of services that are similar or analogous to the cost of services that the agency is paying the relocation contractor to provide. While Mr. Maher alleges that the relocation contractor was not very helpful to him when he sought information concerning his equity payment, DEA reports that the contractor is contractually required to provide counseling services to DEA employees utilizing its services.

Based on the record, we cannot conclude that the dual benefits prohibition does not apply to Mr. Maher.

Accordingly, Mr. Maher's claim is disallowed.