NY real estate broker accused of charging sky-high fees to pay $260K

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By Dan Sears

A Manhattan real estate broker accused of charging tenants exorbitant finder’s fees has agreed to pay $260,000 in penalties and restitution under a settlement with the state, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Thursday.

The Post first reported on the alleged scam in August 2022, when a tenant complained that a broker from City Wide Apartments Inc. had forced him to fork over a nearly $20,000 fee to secure a rent-stabilized apartment on the Upper West Side.

The New York Department of State, which licenses real estate agents, launched an investigation into the transaction and City Wide Apartments, and found that the firm had overcharged clients.

The Manhattan-based firm’s agreed-upon settlement includes a $50,000 fine and $210,000 in payments to dozens of tenants, the Hochul administration said — while crediting The Post with exposing the fee abuse.

“With our state staring down a housing crisis, excessive broker fees are not just unfair – they’re a threat to hard-working families looking to call New York home,” Hochul said.

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“This settlement doubles down on my administration’s crackdown on deceptive business practices and starts the process of making dozens of families whole, and I will continue fighting to protect New York consumers and make our state more affordable and more livable.”

Ari Wilford asked for a sky-high fee to rent the one-bedroom unit that was going for $1,725 a month. citywideapts.com

The Post revealed that Ari Wilford, then with City Wide Apartments, asked for a sky-high fee to rent the one-bedroom unit that was going for $1,725 a month.

The tenant said he paid $19,500 — after negotiating $500 off the $20,000 fee.

The charge was far above the typical broker’s fee of one month’s rent or 15% of a year’s rent.

The tenant said he paid $19,500 for Wilford’s fee — after negotiating $500 off the $20,000 fee. Helayne Seidman

The state doesn’t set limits on the fees but says agents can’t charge “exorbitant commissions that have no reasonable relationship to the work involved in earning the commission.”

“Excessive brokers’ fees add substantial costs to the already high price of renting property,” Secretary of State Robert Rodriguez said. “The New York Department of State recognizes the need for fair and transparent practices in the real estate industry and this settlement is a testament to our commitment to protecting the rights of tenants. For those who think they can take advantage of tenants seeking housing, you can rest assured the Department will hold them accountable.”

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State officials said City Wide Apartments and its agents fully cooperated with DOS’ investigation and  pledged to change their business practices and how commissions are structured.

The charge was far above the typical broker’s fee of one month’s rent or 15% of a year’s rent. Helayne Seidman

City Wide Apartments had no immediate comment.

Hochul said the brokers’ free agreement builds on her consumer affordability agenda and to protect residents from deceptive business practices.

As part of her $233 billion executive budget plan, Hochul vowed to overhaul the  “Buy Now Pay Later” loan industry; approved the first major increase in paid medical leave benefits in three decades; proposed to eliminate co-pays for insulin on certain insurance plans and to combat medical debt.

Anyone who believes a licensed real estate broker is acting in an unethical or illegal manner can contact the DOS’ Division of Licensing Services and submit a complaint form.

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