The High Road: Real estate agent breaks law

(flickr photo by Taran Rambersad)

I somehow came across an unsigned ad on Craigslist begging for referrals:

I am a real estate agent.  I offer a referral fee to someone that is well connected and may know people looking to rent an apartment in the city.

Maintaining that “I honestly believe in collaboration as oppose [sic] to pure competition,” this agent says he’ll pay 15 percent for up to $2,690 in monthly rent and 20 percent for more expensive apartments.  The advertiser continues:

Payment will be done through Paypal.

After you contact me, I will email you the link to my personal and corpotate [sic] website and all my contact information.

We should also discuss details over the phone.

Well now, that’s what I call enterprising.  I also call it illegal.

There’s this pesky Article 12-A of the state’s Real Property Law, §442, which, states that broker may not pay anyone “for any help or aid. . . in buying, selling, exchanging, leasing, renting or negotiating a loan. . . unless that person be a duly licensed real estate salesman.”

Although the provision concerns splitting commissions, my interpretation as someone who never studied law is that the agent is in violation of the statute.  If ever that individual were called to account, any fine likely would be no higher than $150.

Assuming the worst of intentions, I’d say the agent knows what he’s doing, or trying to do, is illegal.  Otherwise, why be so coy about his Web site and contact information?

Truth be told, I think a small gesture of appreciation — flowers, dinner, perhaps even tickets to a performance or sporting event — is perfectly appropriate for referrals in the real estate business.

Of course, no one but a curmudgeon like me might complain about the Craigslist agent’s behavior

It is true, after all, that real estate brokers and agents find all manner of means to thank folks who make referrals.  I’ve done it too.

Just keep it to yourself if you find out.

Tomorrow: Weekly Roundup

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
Web site

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