Thousands of people own houses that they rent out to vacationers on the Gulf Coast, from Florida to Texas. Some of these mom-and-pop landlords have suffered cancellations or slower-than-normal bookings. They are eligible for compensation from BP.
Christine Karpinski, who owns a few rental properties in the Florida panhandle and also writes for HomeAway.com, recently wrote a lengthy blog post about the BP claims process. She says she has talked to a lot of people who have filed claims. "I have heard all ends of the gamut," she says.
"I've heard from people who say, 'It's easy as pie -- I went in and gave all the documentation and they gave me a check.' Then I've heard, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm on my 10th adjuster, and still nothing, and they keep asking for more and more and more documentation, and I'm ready to go postal.' And everywhere in between."
Karpinski advises landlords to gather tons of documentation before they meet with, or call, a BP claims adjuster. Among the necessary documentation: Rental history going back at least a year.
"They want rental history with seasonality," Karpinski says. It's OK to use the previous property owner's rental history (if you just recently bought the place) or records from a property manager.
The BP claims adjuster needs to know which weeks the property was rented last year (and maybe previous years), and for how much. The adjuster needs copies of your 2008 and 2009 tax returns (complete returns, including Schedule E), a profit and loss statement for 2010, and documentation of any cancellations (such as printouts of e-mails, as well as phone numbers where the would-be renters can be reached). You'll have to provide a copy of the warranty deed.
You can file a claim each month, if you prefer. You may seek compensation for previous months, but not the current month. So, for example, if your renters canceled for the week of July Fourth, you can't file a claim for that lost rental money until Aug. 1 at the earliest. "So right now (on July 19), the only claims that I can file are May and June," Karpinski says.
She adds: "The initial claim that you put in, you're proving all of your rental history for all time, so that when I go back in to file my July, all of my rental histories are in, so it should be a quick and easy process. 'Should' is the operative word."
One final bit of advice: "One common denominator among people who have gotten paid is that they actually went down and filed a claim face-to-face in their local office," Karpinski says. And she says you're entitled to file for travel expenses for such a trip.
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