Make sure your brokerage and co-brokerage agreements are always in writing. It may sound simple, but the litigation team at Starr Associates LLP was compelled to defend this issue for a client in New York Supreme Court when a purported “co-broker/finder” claimed he was entitled to 1/2 our client’s brokerage commission based on an alleged oral agreement.
Although the evidence provided by plaintiff during discovery was paltry, the court permitted the case to proceed to a jury trial, based on the claim by plaintiff that a gratuity offered by our client as a “thank you” once the deal was consummated, as is common in the industry, was really an effort to pay the co-broker less than the ½ commission orally agreed-upon. Our client wholly denied that any oral agreement was ever discussed and alleged that the “thank you” payment was a simple gift. Plaintiff provided no proof of such oral agreement, other than his own testimony.
After jury selection and a three day trial, where our firm questioned the validity and existence of the alleged oral commission agreement on cross examination of the plaintiff, a unanimous verdict was returned in favor of our client. The jury found there was not enough evidence to support plaintiff’s claim of an oral co-brokerage agreement.
It is important to note that, during the trial there was much debate as to whether the “procuring cause” standard should be applied to co-brokers as it is applied to brokers in general. While the judge ultimately decided not to instruct the jury that plaintiff was required to prove its case based on the procuring cause standard, it is open for future litigation as to whether a co-broker must also show he or she is the procuring cause of the transaction or if any alleged interaction, no matter how peripheral, is enough to state a claim for an oral co-brokerage agreement. Thus, brokers open themselves up to a factual dispute and potential litigation if their commission agreements, no matter how big or small, are not memorialized in writing. Protect yourself.
Please call us at Starr Associates LLP if you need any assistance in preparing, reviewing or memorializing your commission agreement or if you are involved in a brokerage dispute.
Our team has had the pleasure of working with Starr Associates on our project at 150 Rivington Street. The entire Starr team was a tremendous asset to the success of our project. Through very challenging times, Starr Associates came through time and time again. It is an honor to work with everyone at Starr!
I have known Allan Starr for many years and worked with him on many projects. He has always exceeded my expectations. He not only knows the ins and outs of the law, but knows how to make the whole process easy and quick. I’ve found him to possess an incredibly astute legal mind, combined with a common sense approach that always accomplishes my goals. He’s not only a gentleman and a friend, but a brilliant lawyer.
It has been an absolute pleasure working with Allan Starr and Samantha Sheeber over the past twelve years. They are not only the utmost professionals, but also wonderful people who I have grown to love like family. I trust them with all of my new development projects and private clients, and we support each other in our business and personal lives. Starr Associates LLP has always been there for me and my clients and I would recommend them as highly as I recommend anyone.
Allan and I have worked together for decades; along the way, I have worked with Samantha Sheeber, Andrea Roschelle, John Rodriguez and Erica Starr and have always been pleased with their quick and accurate responses. They have worked with us on closings (with great and efficient results), restatements of stale plans, amendments and other assorted AG requirements, always on a timely and cost-effective basis.
“Working with Starr has been great on three condo projects in Manhattan to date. The accessibility and direct attention of the partners is unsurpassed. Allan and Sam have the interests of the owner at heart and make every effort to protect our interests in a responsible and defensible manner. Their practical approach and deep knowledge of the offering plan process and requirements of the AG office combine to make a highly effective and efficient package. At the associate level they have good support as well. The closing office has to be the best in NY – never a failed closing in 15 years. We are repeat customers and will be going forward.”
“Samantha Sheeber is a partner in making transactions successful. She’s resourceful, respected, smart, funny as hell, and is swift to constantly embarrass us (and clients) because she sees the end while we all muddle in the middle. She saves time. She is selfless and fast and conscientious. She’s loyal to the notion of selflessly getting stuff done. She cultivates great talent. And she makes the process fun, even when she is mad at us for asking the same impossible question 11 times hoping for a new result (a solution for which — by the way — she often discovers).”
“As an active developer in New York City, Magnum Real Estate Group is proud to have partnered with Starr Associates, LLP as our legal counsel in 5 significant projects valued at approximately $800 million. Over the last 5 years, Starr has provided us with exceptional advice on condominium Offering Plans and related transactions. Partner Samantha Sheeber, Esq. and her team have professionally guided us, and provided creative and effective solutions when needed.”
“I have had the fortunate opportunity, over the past 16 years, to work with Allan Starr and Samantha Sheeber who I consider to be experts in the field of real estate law. They, together with their team, have a deep understanding of Attorney General Offering Plan registrations and continually seek to identify creative solutions to complicated issues. Their level of integrity and commitment are unwavering no matter how large or small a project. I completely endorse Starr Associates LLP and look forward to our mutual continued success.”
“Starr Associates’ specialty in the creation and representation of condominiums is unmatched. Their knowledge, experience and professionalism in the office condominium sector is best-in-class. Starr Associates’ hard work and expertise has been critical to the success of our firm’s office condominium projects.”
“Starr Associates have been our condominium attorneys for many years. Their counsel goes well beyond just drafting the condominium documents, which of course they do extremely well. They also represent us and our brand with condominium unit purchasers, and with our lenders and partners on condominium related matters. We have always found Starr’s attorneys to be professional, responsive and cost-conscious.”