Oil spill claims: Alabama Realtors get $7.5 million for lost business


Alabama Realtors have received $7,511,516.53 from a fund set aside by oil czar Ken Feinberg to help agents in five Gulf Coast states hurt by the Gulf oil spill, the Alabama Association of Realtors said Thursday.

A total of 850 claims have been filed by licensed agents in Alabama over the past two months, with almost 500 of those claimants getting compensation, said Danny Cooper, executive vice president of Montgomery-based association.

“Probably 200 claims have so far been denied for various reasons,” he said. Some agents need to add more information to their claim documents, but then most likely will receive compensation, he said.

Realtors began reporting canceled sales contracts and lost income soon after oil from the Deepwater Horizon well reached the coast. Feinberg took over spill claims from BP PLC on Aug. 23 and designated $60 million for Realtors; Alabama got $15 million; Florida, $16 million and Mississippi, $1.5 million.

In Alabama, Realtors could initially ask for as much as $18,000 each. Cooper said that, thus far, 15 agents have qualified for more than that amount.

The National Catastrophe Adjusters Group, an Indianapolis-based company hired by the state Realtor groups to handle the claims, has set up offices in Robertsdale and Mobile, with plans to stay as long as agents continue to file claims, according to Cooper.

The process requires strict documentation, said Jeff Newman, executive director of the Mobile Area Association of Realtors.

“There’s no guessing,” he said. “It has got to be legitimate and verifiable.”

Any claims money received directly from BP prior to the current claims process must be reported, he said.

Alabama claims are based on the value of an agent’s closed transactions in 2009. First, there’s a comparison to that agent’s business from January through April of this year, then agents are asked to provide information on their business after the spill — in May, June and July, according to Cooper.

Eligible Mobile County agents have business addresses south of Interstate 10 or in three Mobile-area ZIP codes — 36695, 36608 and 36609, Cooper said, while eligible Baldwin County agents are south of I-10 or in one ZIP code in Spanish Fort.

“We added those ZIP codes after talking to Feinberg,” Cooper said. The state and local Realtor groups provided documentation that many agents in Mobile County do a considerable amount of business at the Gulf, he said.

At the end of the process, Cooper said, any money left from the $15 million assigned to Alabama will be returned to Feinberg.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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