Claim for Legal Fees and Per Diem in Connection With Real Estate Transaction

B-200691: Aug 24, 1981

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An employee of the General Services Administration appealed the settlement of his claim which authorized reimbursement of a broker's commission paid on the sale of his residence but which disallowed reimbursement for per diem and legal expenses incident to the sale. The claim was disallowed on the basis that it occurred more than 2 years after the date that the employee's permanent station was changed. In his appeal, the employee contended that his attorney declined to itemize his legal fees and challenged the determination regarding his entitlement to house-hunting trip expenses and additional per diem. The employee claimed that his transfer was not effective until almost 2 years later when the form reflecting that transfer was executed. GAO held that an employee may not be reimbursed for the services of an attorney in relation to real estate transactions except for those that are customarily paid by the seller of a residence at the old official station or those customarily paid by the purchaser of a residence at the new official station. Further, the cost of litigation is not reimbursable. Consistent with the regulations, no part of the attorney fees claimed by the employee may be paid since there is no appropriate itemization. GAO also held that the employee's entitlement to per diem and to the expenses incurred in his house-hunting trip is dependent upon when his transfer was effective. The record confirmed that the employee's claim was not formally documented until almost 2 years after his transfer occurred. However, the record also showed that the form was executed as a result of the employee's grievance regarding the impropriety of his supervisor's motives for directing his transfer and documented that the employee's tranfer occurred almost 2 years earlier. Further, since the location of an employee's permanent duty station is not determined merely on the basis of administrative designation and documentation, the agency's failure to document the employee's tranfer prior to its effective date does not preclude a finding that he was transferred 2 years earlier. Therefore, GAO did not agree that the employee was not tranferred until the documented form was effective, and there was no basis to allow either his claim for house-hunting trip expenses or per diem. Accordingly, the original settlement was sustained.

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