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Seinfeld Ordered to Pay Real Estate Broker Fee

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Seinfeld Ordered to Pay Real Estate Broker Fee

Postby NeGeMo » Sun Jan 14, 2007 11:40 pm

Seinfeld Ordered to Pay Real Estate Broker Fee
Download decision: http://www.nylawyer.com/adgifs/decision ... acosta.pdf

By Mark Fass
New York Law Journal - January 2006

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld has found himself on the losing end of a lawsuit involving a broker's commission on his Manhattan townhouse.

Supreme Court Justice Rolando T. Acosta (See Profile) has ruled that Mr. Seinfeld must pay a real-estate broker a commission of at least $98,750 for the $3.95 million townhouse he and his wife purchased in 2005.

Mr. Seinfeld had testified that the broker, Tamara Cohen, did not deserve the payment, as she had not been available when he and his wife, Jessica, wanted to see the West 82nd Street home. The Seinfelds also testified that they did not know that the reason Ms. Cohen did not return their calls was that she was an observant Jew and observed the Sabbath.

Justice Acosta held that, notwithstanding Ms. Cohen's failure to immediately return the Seinfelds' calls, "[T]he evidence clearly indicates that she served as the Seinfelds' real estate broker."

The existence of an oral agreement between the Seinfelds and Ms. Cohen and testimony by various witnesses regarding a co-brokerage agreement established that Ms. Cohen was entitled to one-half of the broker's fee, according to the decision, Cohen v. Seinfeld, 105916/05.

The decision will be published Friday.

"The only real issue here," Justice Acosta concluded, "is whether the broker's fee was five or six percent."

Ms. Cohen began showing apartments and buildings to the Seinfelds' "estate manager," Steven Galistinos, in September 2004, according to the decision. In January 2005, Ms. Cohen showed the 82nd Street townhouse to Mr. Galistinos. The listing broker for the townhouse agreed to "co-broke" the house with her.

On Friday, Feb. 11, 2005, Ms. Cohen again showed the house to Mr. Galistinos, who this time was accompanied by Ms. Seinfeld.

On either Saturday Feb. 12 or Sunday Feb. 13, the Seinfelds - having failed to reach Ms. Cohen - went back to the house on their own. After touring the premises with the owner, they agreed to buy the building for just under $4 million. Neither broker was present for the negotiation.

On Feb. 13, Ms. Cohen checked her messages and learned that the Seinfelds' estate manager, Mr. Galistinos, had called her. She then spoke with the listing broker who told her that the Seinfelds and the building's owner had agreed to a sale.

When the Seinfelds refused to pay Ms. Cohen a commission, she initiated the present action against the Seinfelds, the seller and the listings broker. The defendants moved for summary judgment; Ms. Cohen cross-moved for partial summary judgment.

Justice Acosta sided with Ms. Cohen, finding that the Seinfelds had in fact agreed to pay her a commission.

"[T]he sales contract confirms much of Cohen's claim," Justice Acosta wrote.

The court also cited the work performed by Ms. Cohen for the Seinfelds as a broker.

"Indeed, she located several townhouses at Galistinos' request, showed the premises in question to Galistinos and Jessica Seinfeld . . . and made arrangements to have the Seinfelds see the premises the following week," the judge wrote.

In ruling for Ms. Cohen, Justice Acosta found the only unresolved issue to be whether the commission she shares with the listing broker should total 5 percent or 6 percent of the sale - either $197,500 or $237,000.

Ms. Cohen's share will be either $98,750 or $118,500.

Steven Landy and Erik Berglund of Steven Landy & Associates represented Ms. Cohen.

"I am pleased that the court system does come through for the little guy now and again," Mr. Landy said Friday. "This is simply a case of greed. There really was no reason to withhold money that this independent broker spent a lot of time earning."

Richard Menaker of Menaker & Hermann represented the Seinfelds and the seller, Ray Mayeri. Mr. Menaker said he intends to move to reargue.

"Not a single one of the [six] arguments we made was addressed," Mr. Menaker said. "At the oral argument I pointed out that Ms. Cohen is not licensed. You can only recover on an oral agreement if you're a licensed real-estate broker," he added, noting the purported oral agreement between Ms. Cohen and the Seinfelds.

Mr. Landy said that Ms. Cohen is in fact licensed and that the court apparently agreed.
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Postby TenantNet » Sun Jan 14, 2007 11:51 pm

Good chuckle, but what's it got to do with tenants?
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Postby NeGeMo » Mon Jan 15, 2007 12:36 am

I thought it would be good if a tenant knows that s/he is still responsible for fees should the same events happen to him/her. Hopefully, this can save them from going to court and money.
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Postby Cranky Tenant » Mon Jan 15, 2007 1:53 am

NeGeMo wrote:I thought it would be good if a tenant knows that s/he is still responsible for fees should the same events happen to him/her. Hopefully, this can save them from going to court and money.


As long as readers understand that laws governing real estate sales and apartment rentals differ.Not sure about New York City but in some locations both the buyer and seller are required by law to be represented by separate brokers. Obviously that's not the case with rentals. Also notice the broker's fee, 5 or 6%, is considerably lower than the typical 15% brokers commission for apartment rentals.
I'm a cranky tenant NOT a cranky lawyer.
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Postby bsimpson » Thu Feb 15, 2007 7:41 pm

Cranky, you say that the broker's fee for purchasing an apartment is LESS than that for renting????
The percentages your comparing refer to two totally different kind of figures. The % fee for purchase is a % of a purchase price which typically is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The % for rentals is a % of one year's rent.
The commission in amount of dollars (which is what ultimately counts) is MUCH higher for a purchase than a rental. It's absolutely misleading to just compare percentages.

Just couldn't let you get away with a nonsensical statement like that.
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