[Request for Extension of Time Limitation To Sell Residence]

B-212171: Sep 27, 1983

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GAO was asked whether a Social Security Administration employee could be reimbursed real estate expenses incident to a permanent change of station. The employee requested and was granted a 1-year extension to complete the sale of her former residence, which remained unsold due to a depressed housing market. When she did sell her residence, she asked whether expenses incurred in the sale of the residence could still be allowed. At the time of the employee's transfer, Federal Travel Regulations required that the settlement of a house sale be held within 1 year after the transfer, but allowed agencies to extend the period for an additional year. A change to this regulation now provides an automatic 2-year time period for residential transactions with another year allowed under certain conditions. This third year was available to the employee in which to sell her house, provided that she made a timely request for the extension. However, her agency denied the request since it was not timely filed. The employee maintained that an exception should be made in her case because she had no knowledge of the change in regulations or the time limit on requests for extension. GAO stated that the agency had an obligation to inform recently transferred employees of the regulation changes but found that no effort had been made to so notify the employees. Agencies have the discretion to allow exceptions in individual cases where the circumstances would justify such action. Therefore, GAO did not think that the employee should be denied the benefit of individual consideration of her request for an extension of time on the basis of the agency's misinterpretation of the regulation amendment. Accordingly, GAO had no objection to the agency's granting the employee an exception to the 30-day time limit and considering her request for an additional year during which to complete the sale of her house.