The deadline for real estate professionals to submit emergency claims for loss of income as a result of the Gulf oil spill is fast approaching. In August, the $20 billion BP Claims Fund for victims of the spill set aside $60 million for real estate licensees in the five states affected by the spill: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
Agents and brokers have until Nov. 23 to file for an emergency advance payment of up to $12,000 through a local Realtor association. Such payments are "available to individuals and businesses that are experiencing financial hardship resulting from damages incurred by the spill," according to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility website. GCCF is the relief fund’s third-party administrator.
Business claims will be evaluated within seven days of submission and, if the claimant is deemed eligible, GCCF will issue a payment within 24 hours of that determination, according to the site.
Licensees who submit a claim do not waive their right to any future legal action concerning the spill, according to GCCF.
Emergency advance payments will be deducted from any final payment a claimant receives. The deadline to file a final claim for economic damages is Aug. 23, 2013, though GCCF does not give a timeline for when those final claims will be processed.
"If you let the deadline pass, you may spend a long time waiting for compensation," said Christine Karpinski, director of owner community for online vacation rental site HomeAway.
"I like to act on the assumption that the early bird gets the worm. When you’re dealing with money, particularly money that’s coming from a finite source, it’s always best to be first in line."
Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who runs GCCF, addressed attendees at the National Association of Realtors annual convention earlier this month. Feinberg gave state and local Realtor associations credit for their role in distributing the funds.
"We’ve created an interesting model," he said, in which state and local Realtor associations use their knowledge about local markets to receive claims, determine eligibility and calculate losses, Inman News reported.
After the Nov. 23 deadline, real estate licensees will have to submit claims to GCCF, though Feinberg said he’d likely forward those claims to Realtor associations. If the $60 million set aside for real estate professionals is not enough to cover valid claims — "if we need to get you more money (to pay them), we will," he said.
The GCCF funds will not extend to the impact of a deep-water oil drilling moratorium that was instituted after the disaster in May and lifted in mid-October.
"Most of the Louisiana Realtor claims involve not the spill, but the consequences of the moratorium," Feinberg said. "There is nothing I can do about those."
Claimants may contact their local Realtor association directly or apply online at gulfreclaims.com.