A New Broker Disclosure Law in New York _ Pound Ridge Real Estate
AS if the process of shopping for an apartment weren’t fraught enough, potential buyers and renters will have to deal with another wrinkle this year, when a new real estate broker-disclosure law goes into effect in New York.
The law requires a real estate agent to have clients sign a form stating that they understand whom the agent represents and to whom the agent will give “undivided loyalty,” as soon as they enter into a relationship.
Brokers are interpreting that to mean that the form does not have to be produced for everyone who walks into an open house, but rather as soon as someone starts asking substantive questions about a property, and certainly when someone asks for an appointment to see it a second time. Given that many apartment hunters are reluctant even to put their names on a sign-in sheet at an open house, agents do not want to have to present them with forms any sooner than necessary.
The disclosure law is designed to clarify the roles of buyers’ and sellers’ agents, in order to, as the form itself states, “help you to make informed choices about your relationship with the real estate broker and its sales associates.” The form goes on to define the various categories of agent.
Assemblyman Jonathan L. Bing, a Democrat who sponsored the legislation, says the new law increases consumer protection because previous disclosure forms were required only in transactions involving single-family homes and buildings with four or fewer units. Mr. Bing said the state and city Realtors’ associations had joined with him in urging passage of the law because it simplifies disclosure of dual agency, in which an agent represents both a buyer and a seller. Buyers can now sign one form providing advance consent to dual agency rather than having to sign a form for each listing that they might see.
“This is a consumer protection law,” said Neil Garfinkel, residential counsel to the Real Estate Board of New York, “but it also protects brokers, because now they will have a written record of what they’re already required to do now verbally.” If a complaint is filed against an agent for not producing a disclosure form, the penalty is a fine of up to $1,000 and, potentially, a requirement that the agency return the commission.
The law will also apply to sellers and landlords, but for them it will presumably be less jarring, because they will already be in negotiation with an agent for an exclusive contract. The disclosure forms will be fairly straightforward when agents are acting either for the buyer or for the seller. But often circumstances are less clear-cut, because they are acting as dual agents.