Real Estate Agent denies making an offer and later charges me a compliance fee. Is this ethical?

Asked by Maria, West Palm Beach, FL Thu Nov 10, 2011

I live in Florida and I found an apartment I love and want to rent. A real estate agent took us to see the unit. I want to lease for two years and wanted to make an offer for $100 less per month. The real estate lady told me she wasn't going to do it because the landlord wanted $200 more a month from the asking price and she knew he/she would say no. Now she sent me a lease agreement with a compliance fee. Is this ethical?

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Mack McCoy, Agent, Seattle, WA
Sat Nov 26, 2011
I have a slight disagreement with the other experts on the panel.

On the first point, I'm not sure that agents are legally obligated to write up your offers, especially if they are agents for the landlord. Certainly, when they're written, they are obliged to present them.

On the second point, companies are starting to charge for the legally-required storage of documents. Well, I guess they've been "starting" for the last fifteen years, but it is annoying, because they were storing these records anyway.

So, Maria, now I'm wondering - what did you do? Did you rent the place?
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Jeanne Feeni…, Agent, Basking Ridge, NJ
Sat Nov 26, 2011
Thanks for sharing your experience - if the agent/broker has to make her living through as one poster aptly said "junk fees" then I say, find another career.


Good luck securing a rental that suits you,
Jeanne Feenick
Unwavering Commitment to Service, Unsurpassed Results
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Erica Ramus,…, Agent, Pottsville, PA
Sat Nov 26, 2011
Choose another agent and another apartment. They don't sound good to work with.
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Bob Brubaker, Agent, Lake Worth, FL
Sat Nov 26, 2011
Maria- As the other answers suggest a " compliance fee " is something " cooked=up "
by the agent , owner or both. They are comming back to you because they didn't
get other usefull offers. My Advice: Move-On ! If there are issues and confusion
now you can just imagine what could happen once you make a deposit!
This is a good " Text Book Example " of the importance of dealing only with
ethical professionals who operate in a business climate of " Fair Ddealing"
by all in a transaction! Best of Luck ! Keep looking and you'll probably find
something better! If you need more-, contact me directly glad to help !

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Seth Captain, Agent, Chicago, IL
Tue Nov 15, 2011
Remember, that you are in Florida, so these things are to be expected.

Send the agent an invoice for the hours you wasted with her. And then a week later send her another invoice for the drycleaning of the clothes you wore on the apartment showings. Then a week later send her an invoice for the additional food you were forced to consume in order to compensate for the failed contract negotiations. By then she's leave you alone.
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Steve Vinson, , Florida
Tue Nov 15, 2011
It's a junk fee. Not required by the state. If they say that it is, have them cite the law. If the realtor tells you the landlord wont accept something that you're offering, she may just be telling you that because the landlord gave her instructions, but she is required to present the offer. Just don't expect her to give it to them in a timely manner.
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Marco Gomez &…, Agent, Jackson Heights, NY
Tue Nov 15, 2011
I've never heard of that in NY. As for not submitting your offer that is completely unethical. Even if you offer $1, she has to submit it to the landlord. I would recommend you speak to her office manager and ask for the number to the Florida board of realtors in your area, which should have he problem go away.

Marco Gomez
NYS Associate Broker
Keller Williams Landmark II
Serving Queens, Brooklyn & Nassau
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Don Tepper, Agent, Burke, VA
Thu Nov 10, 2011
I'm not sure exactly what a compliance fee is. And I'm not a lawyer, so this isn't legal advice.

Still, let's take this step by step.

Did you sign any documents with the real estate agent who showed you the property before she showed it to you? If you did, those documents might have said that you'd owe her money under certain conditions. (I've never heard of that with a rental, though.) But if you didn't sign anything agreeing to pay a fee, then you don't owe a fee.

Next: You wanted to make an offer but "the real estate lady" refused to do so. Again, I'm not a lawyer, but it's likely that her refusal to present an offer would be interpreted by a judge as the agent's willingness to forfeit any commission she might have been entitled to . . . had you submitted an offer, had it been approved, and had you agreed to pay.

A side note here: In many areas of the country, the landlord pays the commission or fee. There are some areas where it's typical for the tenant to pay a fee. I don't know how it is where you are. But, again, that would have been discussed with you and confirmed with paperwork that you would have signed.

Next: the agent sent you a lease agreement. It's probably irrelevant what the lease amount is, since the agent declined to submit your offer. Even if your offer had been submitted, it would have required your signature (preferably before the offer) and then the landlord's signature. A blank lease agreement--or even one with the landlord's signature--isn't enforceable unless you sign.

Next: The agent wishes to charge you a "compliance fee." Again, I haven't heard of that. Complying with what? Was there any agreement in writing between you and her?

My advice: Call up the agent's broker. Ask for an explanation. But don't pay unless you're absolutely comfortable paying and fully understand what the charge is for and what the situation is. Otherwise, contact the local Realtor's association (if the agent was a Realtor). And, if necessary, contact a lawyer.

Good luck.
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