Dealing with Difficult Clients and Customers

Sep 10, 2019

Q. A buyer client just bought a house directly from a seller. Does he owe me a commission when we had an agreement that gave my office an exclusive right to represent him in any purchase he made in Nassau County in a six-month period? The house is in Nassau and there are two months to go on the buyer broker agreement.

A. It seems to me you have a commission claim and a cause of action for breach of contract against the buyer.

Q. I took a listing from a seller in July 2018. The listing does not expire until January 2019. The seller just sold to someone he said he found himself. Now he refuses to pay our office the commission. What can we do?

A. See the answer to the question above! Just as a buyer is contractually bound to a buyer's broker, a seller is contractually bound to the listing broker. 

Q. I am dealing with a seller who is a horror! She is making my life miserable! What can I do?

A. Stop dealing with her. No one has the right to make you sell her house, so tell her you won't. Release her for your own sanity!

Q. Can Sellers refuse to show their property on certain days because of religious observances?

A. Of course they can. If the time off the market exceeds ten days, however, you may have to temporarily withdraw the listing or you and/or your broker may be fined for violating MLS Rules.

Q. A seller only wants to give me an exclusive agency listing, but he insists I put a sign on his property and have weekly open houses. Is that allowed?

A. By whom? Your broker is the one who would have to make that decision, and I would not be surprised to find that the decision would be "no!"  An agency agreement allows sellers to obtain their own buyers without owing the listing office a commission. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the sellers will tell you they obtained the buyer through their own efforts when in reality, your sign and/or open house brought the home to the buyer's attention.

Q. My sellers are getting a contentious divorce. The wife wants me to have the listing and the husband wants another agent in another office to have the listing. My broker called the other agent’s broker and they agreed we co-list the property. Is that allowed?

A. Yes, and it will save everyone a great deal of aggravation since each of the warring spouses will feel he or she is personally represented, even though, in actuality, both agents represent both sellers! 

Q. I am representing an estate in the sale of a home that had belonged to the heir’s parents. The heirs get along and all agree to list it with me, but only one of the children lives in New York. Do I have to get everyone's signature on the listing?

A. If there is a will, the executor must sign the listing. If there is a trust, the trustee must sign the listing. If there is neither a will nor a trust, all the children are "heirs at law" and will all have to sign the deed, but, for your purposes, only one heir need sign the MLS, although, to protect you and your office, you should have the other heirs email or text their agreement to your having the listing so that you have their assent to your representation in your records.

Q. A buyer customer has been working with me for over three months. He made an offer on a property, which I presented to the seller through the seller's agent, and a deal has been negotiated. Now he tells me his cousin is an agent and he wants this cousin to represent him. What do I do?

A. Tell the listing agent what has happened and ask him to hold the commission until an Arbitration can be heard. The cousin will have to prove he was the procuring cause of the transaction in order to be paid. I hope you have all your paperwork in order for the battle! 

Q. Can a seller just refuse to pay me?

A. Sure, but that does not mean he will get away with it! You have legal remedies under contract law that can be heard in an Arbitration if your agreement calls for it or in Court! 

Q. I am suing a seller for a commission and just got the answering papers, which claim I breached my fiduciary duty of loyalty to the seller and that I am therefore not entitled to be paid. Can she do that?

A. Sellers always do that. It is called raising an affirmative defense. If the seller proves the claim, you may not be entitled to a commission. You have to refute the claim and show there was no breach in order to prevail in the lawsuit.