Real Estate Brokers Blow Beyond New $20 Tenant Fee Cap

(THE CITY) , August 15, 2019

Real estate brokers who match prospective tenants with landlords are claiming a new cap on application fees doesn’t apply to them — snubbing a key part of New York’s recent rent-law overhaul.

The sweeping housing measure state lawmakers passed in June bars landlords from charging more than $20 to cover the costs of tenant background or credit checks. But the Real Estate Board of New York is advising its members that brokers, who serve as intermediaries, may still charge more than $20.

“We believe that real estate brokers are still entitled to collect reasonable application fees,” says a memo distributed to REBNY members and obtained by THE CITY.

The Department of State, which oversees real estate brokers, is “reviewing” whether the $20 cap applies to them, according to an agency spokesperson.

“This is one of many areas of ambiguity in the new laws,” said Carl Hum, general counsel at REBNY.

His organization is telling brokers they still have to limit fees associated with credit or background checks to no more than $20, and provide prospective tenants with an itemized invoice. But brokers also may charge application fees above the prescribed limit, REBNY contends.