Broker Fee Ban: What It Means for Renters

I spoke to my colleague Luis Ferré-Sadurní, who covers New York State politics in Albany and previously wrote about housing, about the new rules.

What exactly are broker fees, and how are the rules around them changing?

Before tenants are handed the keys to a rental, they’re often asked to pay a nonrefundable fee to a broker, usually 8 to 15 percent of one year’s rent. Regulators decided to kill that practice.

In a memo clarifying tenant protection laws from June, they said brokers acting on behalf of landlords would no longer be allowed to collect fees from new tenants.

What does this mean for renters in New York City?

It’s one less steep financial barrier to securing housing in a city where rents are soaring and affordable apartments are scarce. It’s worth noting that application fees for apartments were capped at $20 and security deposits at one month’s rent under last year’s new rent laws, too.

What about for brokers and landlords?

Brokers are still allowed to collect their fees, but only from the landlord unless the tenant hired the broker to help find an apartment. Industry experts say that will cause landlords of market-rate apartments to pass on the cost of the broker fees to tenants by raising the rent. Landlords of rent-stabilized units would not be able to raise rents to offset the expense.

Tenants could end up paying more over time if the increase remains baked into the rent down the road. The real estate industry has warned that this change could lead brokers to lose income and, potentially, their jobs.

What happens next?

Yesterday, state regulators said the changes were not retroactive, meaning that renters who paid a broker fee after the passage of the June 2019 rent laws were not entitled to a refund.

Some brokers said they planned to continue business as usual, arguing that they were left out of the process and that the state’s new guidance was not an enforceable mandate.

The real estate lobby, which encouraged its members to follow the new rules, said it could challenge the changes in court.

The Times’s Corey Kilgannon writes:

For more than a century, the New York City Police Department has required its officers to keep a detailed, handwritten memo book while on patrol.

“It’s basically our bible,” Officer Ramses Cruz said.

The memo book may be the department’s oldest policing tool, filled with notes on arrests, countless 911 calls and even what time an officer took lunch. (For perspective, most officers will finish their careers without ever firing their guns.)

The books are so sacred that officers must safeguard them even after retirement, because they could be used as evidence in future trials.

But by Feb. 17, they will be replaced by an iPhone app.

Department officials said the transition would help eliminate possible problems, such as faked entries and having to sort through indecipherable handwriting.

Frank Serpico, the former police detective who helped expose corruption decades ago, called memo books ineffective monitors of officers because “no cop is going to put anything in his memo book to incriminate himself.”

But the new system, Mr. Serpico said, could prevent old abuses, like officers leaving open space in their books to allow them to add entries retroactively.

“Guys used to leave blank pages so they could go back and add observations just to get a judge to give them a search warrant on someone,” he recalled in a phone interview.

But the transition also concerns police union officials, who fear that the increased accountability of officers’ whereabouts and actions will be used to further scrutinize officers.

Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association, the police union, said the app would increase “bureaucratic burdens” and “workplace surveillance” within the force.

It’s Friday — try something new.


Dear Diary:

A friend of mine was visiting from Oklahoma. She had been to New York many times and had seen the major attractions, so I decided to take her to Coney Island.

We went on the Wonder Wheel, got a hot dog at Nathan’s and made our way over to the Brooklyn Cyclones’ baseball field to watch a game.

While we were in the stands, a peanut vendor passed by.

“Sir, sir,” my friend called out, “excuse me.”

She got no response.

I stopped her and said she should yell, “Yo, peanuts,” as loud as she could.

She did.

The vendor turned around immediately.

“How many?” he said.

— Annette Angelone

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