BRADENTON — Floridians with Gulf Coast vacation properties have filed more than 40,000 claims seeking restitution for revenue lost due to the oil spill.
And thousands more claims could be coming during the next week.
Gulf Coast vacation homeowners seeking emergency advance payment due to losses as a result of the oil spill have until Nov. 23 to submit a claim to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.
Though the deadline is 12:01 a.m. Nov. 23, property owners can still file claims later. But those claims will not be processed as an emergency claim, according to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.
“If you let the deadline pass, you may spend a long time waiting for compensation,” said Christine Karpinski, director of HomeAway.com, an online director of vacation rental properties nationwide. “I say that based on the fact that despite all the conversations I’ve had, despite reading the (claims) web site and compiling pages of claims documentation, no one seems to be able to cite a date by which homeowners will receive final payment.”
Amy Weiss, spokeswoman for the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, would not give an estimate on how long the evaluation and payment process takes for claims.
As of late last week, 42,426 emergency advance payment claims had been filed for Florida vacation properties. Of those, 41,983 claims had been paid a combined total of $622.3 million.
Nationwide, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility has paid out at least $1.7 billion in claims, Weiss said.
“We have seen claims and have paid claims where people were harmed economically due to the perception of oil — Florida being a specific case where people saw a downturn in tourism and other economic harm due to the perception,” she noted.
Melinda Bordes, a Realtor for Island Real Estate, said the impact on Anna Maria Island rentals was minimal after the oil spill.
“I don’t feel like we were impacted as much as other areas — nothing like those in the Panhandle,” Bordes said. “We did see some cancellations in the rental side from people being afraid that the oil may come this way. People pictured oil sitting up on our beaches and that wasn’t the case here. We didn’t see a drop of oil.”
Bordes said she knows of at least one client who is filing a claim due to losing a deposit on a vacation property.
Atlanta attorney Jennifer Pennington, a senior associate with Schulten, Ward and Turner, is in the process of helping an Anna Maria Island rental property company file a claim not only for losses on cancellations but added expenses. Pennington did not disclose the company as it has not yet signed a client contract with the law firm.
“They had lots of cancellations,” Pennington said. “And the business they did get they had to get by increasing advertising and setting up a webcam to show people in the Midwest and elsewhere that there was no oil.”
For others, the claims process is more difficult to quantify.
Teresa Gallagher, president of A Tropical Isle Vacation Properties Inc., said clients who regularly rent her Anna Maria Island listings in the summer put their vacation plans on hold after the April 20 oil spill.
But because they had not yet made a reservation, she has no cancellations to show the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.
She estimates her summer season earnings were down 40 percent.
“We certainly didn’t have as good a year as we typically due,” Gallagher said. “The feedback we got from our regulars was that they were going to wait and see.”