Prospective New York Tenants Are Divorcing “Broker Fees”

Members of the Upstate Downstate Housing Alliance held a rally at the State Capitol last November demanding legislators pass universal rent control in New York. | Hans Pennink/Associated Press

If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere.

That saying — oft-uttered when referring to New York — was penned by the author with the City in mind; however, it applies to the state as a whole.

For some, the inability to make it stems from not having a fair shake at the starting line.

For decades we’ve lamented about the exorbitant costs to live in New York. An 800 sq ft, one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx starts around $1,500/month. This time last year, the cost to move into such a dwelling would be; the first and last month’s rent, one month’s security and a broker’s fee totaling 12–15% of the annual rent. That’s $7,200 (accounting for a broker’s fee on the higher end of the spectrum).

The median income in the Bronx is $38,500/year.

That figure is courtesy of Data USA.

Using that math, it would take a family 2.5 months to save up the money needed to move into such a unit. Of course, in order to save that amount in such a time frame, they’d have to eschew minor things like; rent, food, utilities, clothing and paying taxes. Otherwise, their road to renting would take much longer.

Well, thanks to lawmakers, the burden of moving-in has become significantly lighter. As of Tuesday, February 5, 2020, landlords — not tenants — will have to cough up the loot to pay those outlandishly high brokers fees. Why? Contrary to what Drake and Chris Brown have preached, guidance issued by the New York Department of State has mandated it.

Tenant to Landlord: “You got it, girl. You got it.” (The popular R&B reference quota has now been reached.)

Last year, the State Legislature passed a remarkably progressive rent reform package. The package — while innovative — left some questions to be answered. One of the new clarifications requires that brokers that are contracted through landlords cannot be paid by prospective tenants. Brokers were essentially told to; “dance with who brought you”.

New York is was one of the few places in the country where renters had to fork over such fees. Most cities/states see property owners pay the brokers out of their pockets. This archaic practice has plagued New Yorkers for decades. Well, the fat lady has sung.

A tad pitchy in the beginning but she stuck the landing.

In September of last year, a state clarification mandated that real estate brokers/salespeople couldn’t charge application fees greater than $20. This new guidance follows that similar suit. This is better than other cities where you can find application fees in the hundreds.

The new legislation is not without its detractors.

The Real Estate Board of New York, the lobbying arm for the city’s real estate industry, is SALTY. They have already pledged to combat the new guidance. The group is exploring legal action warning that the changes would lead to an increase in rent. It can also steer landlords to deal directly with prospective tenants. Websites like Cozy make doing so rather easy.

The action will take effect immediately. Anyone seeking to file a complaint with the state against a licensed real estate broker or salesperson can download a form here.

This, along with laws such as bail reform, are evidence that progressive lawmaking is what our society needs. One should be afforded the opportunity to come to their home — after a long day at work — and find rest.

It’s incumbent on elected officials to fight for their choice to do just that. Securing the resident’s ability to rest rests in their hands, as it always has.

Ian Harris is a web/app developing Bronxite. He’s a comedian, cancer survivor & long-suffering NY sports fan. He’s currently fighting for more COVID-19 in NYC.

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