BRADENTON, Fla. — Homebuyers either are shying away from buying homes on the beach or requiring a 60-day guarantee that the oil will not affect the beach before signing real estate contracts, a Naples, Fla., Realtor claimed in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.
The six-count suit was filed against BP and six other companies connected to the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico near Louisiana that exploded and burned April 20, killing 11 workers.
The sunken rig continues to spew “a toxic stew” of crude oil that has been mixed with chemical dispersant, according to the 41-page complaint filed on behalf of the Cynthia Joannou Revocable Trust by its trustee, Cynthia Joannou.
Joannou, who on her website is listed as a broker-associate with Premier Properties of S.W. Florida Inc. Realtors, could not be reached for comment by press time. Her website primarily lists luxury, waterfront, and golf course homes in the Naples area and nearby Bonita Springs on the state’s southwest coast. Joannou’s attorneys declined to comment.
The lawsuit seeks class action status, a jury trial, economic and compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages and costs.
“Buyers of Florida coastal homes are watching the growing oil slick in the Gulf and asking for guarantees before buying a beach home,” Joannou’s suit said.
In addition to some buyers requiring a 60-day guarantee, “Some realtors are offering oil-spill addendums that allow the potential Florida real estate buyer the option to cancel the contract, or extend the closing for up to 30 days, should the oil spill appear at any of the beaches in the county where the property is located at any time up to 48 hours prior to the date of closing,” the complaint said.
Florida Association of Realtors communications manager Marla Martin said Friday that she had not heard “anything along these lines.”
Property appraisers in three Florida Panhandle counties now dealing with the impacts of weathered oil and tar balls have asked the state for permission to lower property values, a point cited in Joannou’s lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the oil spill was a major topic during Friday’s conference call on Florida’s monthly unemployment rate, which was reported at 11.7% in May, down 0.3% from April.
Since the oil spill began, 5,789 Gulf recovery-related jobs have been advertised in Florida’s market, said Rebecca Rust, chief workforce economist at the Agency for Workforce Innovation.
However, it will be difficult to determine how many Floridians get those jobs because they will work for contractors hired by BP based in other Gulf coast states, so the employment gains will be captured there, she said.
“That will certainly give us some gains where we will lose tourism,” said Rust, who admitted the oil crisis creates a “significant potential” for job losses in tourism, a backbone of the state’s economy.
It’s too early to predict a worst-case scenario, she cautioned, adding: “We don’t know how much oil will end up on our beaches or how long it will remain there.”