What you need to know about a House Hunting Trip
House Hunting trips are one of the first things Members have to plan after they get their posting message. Generally speaking, HHTs are one of the least complex parts of your relocation – but things may have changed since your last HHT.
The key to a successful HHT is knowing your entitlements.
Before you start planning your HHT, you should review Chapter 4 of the Relocation Directive to make sure you’re eligible for an HHT. You are entitled to an HHT if you have not already secured accommodation at your destination. Accommodation is not considered “secured” unless you have signed documentation to that effect. If you have applied for a PMQ, but have not been offered one yet – you get an HHT. Even if they say you’re high on the list – if you haven’t signed anything accepting a place, you get an HHT.
What if you have a place secured already? You are still entitled to a trip to go inspect the accommodations, but the rules are a little different. Instead of the 7 days allowed for an HHT, DITs are only 5 days. And it’s important to remember that a DIT is for one person only. DITs are meant to give Members the opportunity to inspect their accommodations, as well as make arrangements for things like schooling or medical file transfers.
Regardless of whether you are taking an HHT or a DIT, the process is the same. You will have to obtain your commanding officer’s authorization – BGRS has an HHT/DIT Authorization form in the Documents section of your account (look for it in the BGRS Upload folder). Even if you are being released – if you still have a c/o, you need to get the authorization form signed.
Planning your HHT
When planning your HHT, keep in mind the following:
- A standard HHT is 7 days – a travel day to get to your destination, five days “on the ground” at your destination, and a travel day to go back home. Costs for the Member and spouse will be reimbursed from the Core funding envelope, but costs for taking your dependents with you will be paid from your Custom envelope. Keep an eye on your Custom funding, because once it is gone, there is no way to get more.
- An extended HHT can add up to 4 additional days on top of a standard HHT. These additional days will be funded from your Custom funding.
- You can add “leave” days or temporary duty to your HHT, but no expenses will be reimbursed while on leave or temporary duty.
- The Relocation Directive includes a section about “Multiple HHTs” but only the first HHT is reimbursable under Core/Custom. Though multiple HHTs were permitted in the past, under the current version of the Relocation Directive, additional HHTs are funded from the Personalized funding component, and due to changes in the way Members are paid their Posting Allowance, the vast majority of Members don’t have enough Personalized funding for a second HHT.
Once you have decided what dates you want for your HHT, you can start the planning. If the distance between your origin and destination exceeds 599 km, you will be expected to fly – and if you fly, you must book your trip through BGRS. They don’t actually book your trip – they review your request and then send it to Hogg Robinson Group (HRG), who will book the trip and send you your itinerary.
If the distance between your origin and destination is over 599 km and you intend to drive your own vehicle (Personal Motor Vehicle – PMV) for your HHT, you are still only permitted one travel day. No hotel costs will be reimbursed outside of the geographical boundary of your destination. Also, your travel costs will be capped at the cost of a plane ticket from origin to destination.
If the distance between your origin and destination is less than 599 km, don’t have to take a traditional HHT where you stay overnight at destination. You can take multiple “day trips” to your destination instead. If you choose that option, you can be reimbursed the kilometric allowance to and from your destination every time you go. The trade off is that you can’t claim accommodation – it’s one or the other.
Members are responsible for finding their own HHT/DIT accommodations – generally speaking, this means booking their own hotel reservations. Most cities have a rate limit and if you go over the maximum rate, you will be reimbursed up to the limit only. If you prefer, you can choose to stay in an AirBnB, or with family or friends. AirBnB is considered “commercial lodging” and will be subject to the same city rate limit as hotels. You are entitled to claim $50/night for non-commercial lodging.
You should review your budget, and about 2 weeks before you go, request an advance from BGRS for the funds you will need for your HHT/DIT. You can request any amount up to the full amount of the budget – or more if you can explain why you need extra – and BGRS will put the funds in your bank account in about 5 to 7 business days.
What expenses can you claim?
Members aren’t supposed have to pay for the majority of HHT/DIT expenses “out of pocket” – which is why you’re allowed to get advances before you go. Since HRG books your flights, you don’t have to worry about those costs.
For members who use their own vehicle on their HHT, the kilometric allowance can be reimbursed for the trip to the destination, AND for local mileage as well.
If you fly to your HHT, you are entitled to a rental vehicle (subject to the same kind of limitations as hotel rooms – the size of the rental car is dictated by the size of your family). When you rent a vehicle, you are entitled to be reimbursed for fuel costs as well. Any parking costs incurred while on HHT are also reimbursable.
As mentioned above, your lodging costs are reimbursable. For commercial lodging, you will have to provide an itemized receipt – one that shows the name and address of the business, the number of nights you were there, the type of accommodations (standard, suite, cottage etc.), the cost per night – broken down to show the room rate, the taxes and fees…, your name and the dates. Invalid receipts are probably the biggest cause for claims being declined. Article 1.4 of the Relocation Directive has the official definition of receipt.
If you stay with family or friends, you will not need receipts, but you will still have to submit a claim for them to get the $50/night entitlement.
Similarly, you aren’t required to keep receipts for your meals, but you still have to submit a claim for them. Currently, the meal allowance is $91.50/day for the member and any dependents that accompany the member on HHT – including children. If your hotel includes breakfast, you are still entitled to the full $91.50/day, per person.
You are also entitled to claim the “incidentals”. A common misconception among Members is that they can claim the incidental amount per person – like meals. However, the Relocation Directive is clear: when on an HHT or DIT means the Treasury Board Incidental Travel Rate payable to one family unit only (including the CF member) anytime CF members or dependants are on travel status. No receipts are needed to claim the incidental allowance either. (See Article 1.4 – Definitions – incidentals)
Receipts are required for most other HHT costs. Rental vehicle companies are notorious for providing incomplete or incomprehensible receipts. When you submit your HHT claim with a rental vehicle expense, make sure you are providing the actual receipt and not the estimate of costs. You can also claim fuel costs, with receipts. You can be reimbursed only if the fuel purchase occurred within the geographical boundary of your destination and on one of the authorized. HHT days. For example – currently, the geographical boundary of St. Jean sur Richelieu does not include the island of Montreal. Fuel purchased in Montreal will not be reimbursable for Members on HHT in St. Jean. Also, if a Member adds leave to their HHT, no costs incurred while on leave are reimbursable – including fuel costs, even if the fuel was intended to be used to search for a house.
There are only a few other costs that you may incur while on HHT that are reimbursable. You are entitled to claim travel to and from the airport – typically in a taxi or “ride sharing” service (Uber/Lyft). Be sure to get a receipt if the cost exceeds $10, and remember that tips aren’t reimbursable. You can also choose to drive your PMV to the airport and claim the kilometric allowance and the long term airport parking. If someone else drives you to the airport, you can only be reimbursed actual costs that you paid to the driver, with receipts.
Dependent care is an often overlooked HHT entitlement. For Members with children, dependent care is reimbursable even if the children are not accompanying the Member on the HHT. Article 4.6.01 of the Relocation Directive says that you can be reimbursed for “dependent care costs that are in excess of existing dependent care arrangements”. Essentially, you can’t claim the normal costs you pay for daycare for your dependents every day, but you can claim costs if you have to pay additional or different costs that are incurred because you are on HHT. You are entitled to claim $75/day with receipts – for a standard HHT, these costs will be paid from the Core funding. On an extended HHT, the costs will be paid from Custom, once the standard HHT days have been paid. Costs over $75/day are also reimbursed from Custom while on HHT. Please remember that Article 3.4.02 states that to claim the $75/day, the care must be provided by individuals who provide dependant care as a regular source of income and do not reside with the family or a bonded sitter provided by a company in the business of providing dependent care services
You are also entitled to claim dependent care costs without receipts, but the reimbursable amount drops to $35/day. Costs over $35/day are not reimbursable without receipts.
Also, Members have the option to bring a third party to their home to provide dependent care while they are on HHT. Usually, this is a family member who lives in another location and who must travel to the location of the children to provide dependent care. The cost of transportation for the third party to travel to origin can be reimbursed from the Custom funding envelope – but reimbursement is capped at the cost of transportation for one dependent from origin to destination. Please remember that the kilometric allowance is payable only to the Member (or spouse) when using their own PMV. This means that costs to bring someone to provide dependent care can’t be claimed as “mileage” – but fuel costs ARE reimbursable – with receipts. For more information about bringing a third party to your home for dependent care, please review Article 4.6.01, or book a planning session with a BGRS agent.
The final two commonly misunderstood expenses that may be incurred while on HHT/DIT are communication costs and pet care costs.
The Relocation Directive states that actual costs for phone/faxes/internet communication while on HHT are reimbursable (See Article 4.6.02). This is a throwback to the days when every phone call from a hotel room cost extra. These days, most people have cell phones with monthly plans that include data. For that reason, these costs are almost always ineligible. To be eligible, it must be clear that the communication costs was in addition to the monthly plan AND that they were incurred as the direct result of making arrangements to view a property. Things like an international calling service added to a regular cell phone package for the duration of the HHT or a SIM card do not qualify for this reimbursement.
And pet care is another of the “legacy” expenses that remains in the Directive, but is almost always ineligible for reimbursement. All costs related to pet care (not just on HHT, but throughout your relocation) are funded from the Personalized funding, and as mentioned previously, most Members do not have Personalized funding.
Trying to find a new home for you and your family is stressful enough – and for CAF members, the added stress of only having a 7 or 11 days to make the decision means that they must be prepared before they start their trip. Finding a realtor or a rental search agent that understands the process is one of the most important parts of a successful HHT and a smoother relocation.
- You get an HHT of 7 days from Core plus up to 4 more from Custom if you have not signed for accommodations at destination
- You get a 5 day DIT if you have accommodations at destination. A DIT is for one person only.
- You are expected to fly to your HHT – and you must book your trip on the BGRS site
- If the distance is 599 km or less, you can drive your PMV
- You must book your own hotels
- You can claim meals for everyone on the HHT, but you can only claim the incidentals per family
- Hotel and rental car rates can be found here: http://rehelv-acrd.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/acrds/preface-eng.aspx
- AirBnB is allowed
- You need itemized receipts for hotel and rental vehicles, and receipts for parking and fuel
- Don’t miss out on dependent care costs – $75/day with receipts or $35/day without
- Multiple HHTs and pet costs are no longer reimbursable for most Members
 See PWCSG rates for hotel and rental vehicles here: http://rehelv-acrd.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/acrds/preface-eng.aspx
 See above note