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The Curbed Ethicist (Part II): Stiff That Dude

Is it ever morally advisable to stiff a rental broker for their fee? Some Curbed readers (a few brokers among them) say the answer is yes. It's Part II of the Curbed Ethicist debate over that pesky $1800 broker fee we heard about yesterday?and earlier today in Part I of this riveting debate. After the jump, Curbed readers explain why not paying, in this case, might be the right choice. Then, tune in tomorrow for the story's gripping resolution as our original correspondent reveals the course of action he chose.

As before, each paragraph below is a separate reader emails. Emails from brokers marked with an asterisk. And don't miss broker Property Grunt's take on his blog.

Simply, I think you need to get the keys from the landlord and then let the broker follow through on his requests. Once you have the keys you agree to meet in a public place (Sturfuckers for example) and tell the broker what you think. Tell him how you felt his service was and then offer him half of his fee. If he balks tell him to go fuck himself and walk away, then he'll either learn to do a better job, or better yet get out of a business that he is very poorly suited for. A judge will most likely dismiss his complaints if what you say is true about a contract and his performance.

This whole thing sounds highly suspect. Who's to say that this "broker" is a real broker? Every broker I've ever dealt with makes damn sure that the fee is understood and signed for up front, before they even let you in the place. I don't know much about the legal side of things but it sounds pretty shady. If the letter writer has a valid signed lease, and didn't sign anything committing to a broker's fee, I would say he's in the clear.

Tell him not to pay the fee. The agent did nothing except find the apartment, take out ads to market the apartment, hold the open house, and deal with the landlord on the listing. After he moves in tell him to go to Target and not pay for new curtains, new rugs, and new curtains, since all Target did was put the merchandise out and not provide any sort of service for their fee.

This one sounds like a slam-dunk case of don't pay the rat except for one small detail: "The landlord is obligated to give me the keys as I have signed the lease (they have yet to return my signed copy to me, I just signed it this past Friday afternoon)." did the landlord ever sign the lease? the signature of the prospective tenant is meaningless on its own. you need both signatures to make it legal. but if the landlord did sign it, even if you don't have an actual copy, you've got the upper hand. either don't pay the "agent," or, if you're in an extremely nice mood, use your upper hand to negotiate him down to a much lower percentage and pay him that.

This very well may end up between the landlord and the broker if he has an exclusive. But it sounds like this guy is a complete idiot! If I were you the first thing I would do is check to see if he is actually a broker or if this company has a brokers liscense. I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't. Call REBNY - Real Estate Board of NY and ask who to call to check on that.*

Being a former broker for the Corcoran machine, I'd like to offer my opinion on the matter of the curbed reader with dillema in regards to paying the brokers fee. It sounds like the broker may be conducting shady business to begin with (not reveiling his last name or the firm he works for) on top of which, breaking the first rule of NYC brokers: "Before taking ANY client out on showings, you must have them sign the fee agreement." This is real estate 101..... Your reader has no obligation to pay this broker without a signed agreement (both client and broker should have copies) and it's the broker's own ignorance and stupidity that will allow this to happen. Unless there is some sort of funny business going on between the broker and the landlord, the landlord (by law) has to give the tenant the keys and oblige to the signed lease.