Q & A By JAY ROMANO Published: August 19, 2011 in The New York Times.
Q I recently moved to New York City, and a friend and I filled out a rental application for an apartment in Brooklyn. The broker required both an application fee and a “nonrefundable” deposit of $1,550 — one month’s rent. Less than eight hours later, we decided that the apartment was not what we were looking for and we told the broker we were backing out. I’m O.K. with paying the application fee, but the broker is insisting that the landlord has a right to keep the $1,550 deposit. While we recognize that it was “nonrefundable,” we feel we should get it back because of the short time period involved. What are our rights?
A Sherwin Belkin, a Manhattan lawyer who represents property owners, said that in the absence of a lease signed by both parties, the writer would be entitled to a refund of the “nonrefundable” deposit. If the broker or the landlord refused to return it, the writer could sue for the money in Small Claims Court. If a lease was signed by the parties, the landlord would have a viable claim to the deposit.
As a former real estate agent, I can tell you what’s going on here. The real estate agent/broker is disappointed that he won’t get to keep his commission. So he’s telling the renters that they will have to forfeit it to the ‘landlord’. Ha! The landlord isn’t going to keep that commission and he knows it. It’s the broker. Well, Sherwin Belkin’s correct answer will put an end to that.