Reimbursement for Real Estate Expenses

B-196208: Feb 28, 1980

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The Air Force requested an advance decision concerning reimbursement of real estate transfer expenses and appraisal fees incident to the transfer of an employee. The employee was told verbally that he had been selected for a position involving a transfer to a new permanent duty station. He contended that based on this information, he sold his residence. He claimed reimbursement for appraisal fees and real estate transfer costs incident to the sale of the property. During the same time period, the employee separated from and eventually divorced his wife. As part of the divorce settlement, his wife received 50 percent of the net proceeds of the sale of the residence. The Air Force questioned whether the employee should have been reimbursed in any amount since it appeared that the home may have been sold because of the separation/divorce of the parties rather than the change of duty station. GAO held that the verbal notification of his tentative selection for the new position was sufficient notification to entitle the employee to relocation expenses. Since he might only be reimbursed to the extent of his interest in the residence, it was held that he was entitled to 50 percent of the expenses incident its sale. However, since the appraisal had been conducted before he received notification of his transfer, GAO held that the appraisal fee could not be reimbursed.