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The Curbed Ethicist (Part III): Action!

As promised, the resolution to the ethical debate that's been raging this week at Curbed. On Wednesday, we published an email from a Curbed reader wondering if, due to some rather strange circumstance, he was morally obliged to pay a rental broker an $1,800 fee. Yesterday, we ran responses from those who think he's a cheapskate who should pay the broker, and those who thought the broker too shady to pay. Now, after the jump, the original correspondent reveals his chosen course of action. Brace yourself....

The Curbed reader emails:

Last night it occurred to me that I should search the apt. listings on Craig's List by using the broker's cell phone number. Sure enough, I get some listings of his that include his last name, the name of his firm, and his e-mail address. The name of the firm does not match the name of the firm that I was asked to make the brokers fee check out to.

Then I go to search his name on the NY State gov't website (thanks to a link provided by Property Grunt) to see if the broker's name or the name of the company from the check to be made out to were licensed and neither name comes up as a match. I don't know how reliable the NYS website is so I don't know what to make of this info (or lack thereof).

The firm that is listed in the Craig's List ads is an established firm in Manhattan, not one of the big conglomerate players but a firm that's been around. He appears on their website as an agent and I called there to ask if he was licensed, which they confirmed.

So I finally call the broker and pepper him with questions: Why don't I know his last name? Why didn't I get a business card? Why didn't the signs he posted around the neighborhood name the firm he works for? What firm does he work for? Where is it located? Are you licensed?

He gave flimsy excuses for most of these questions but he claims he is licensed. He tells me that he works on his own now and that's what the company name that I was supposed to make the check out to reflects. He tells me his business address, which I know is a residential address in Gravesend Brooklyn (nothing wrong with working from home). Maybe he's moonlighting while at the Manhattan firm?

I now bargain him down to $1400 (CASH) because at the end of the day, I want the apt. I am meeting him tonight to pay him.

People had responded to Curbed yesterday saying that the broker was in the right and that I was looking to duck out on paying. But I have to ask them doesn't all of this secrecy and duplicity bring anything into question? Or are they brokers that employ similar tactics?

Thanks to all who responded. Got your own ethical real estate debate on your hands? Drop a line to