Real Estate

Broker fee bill to draw hundreds of real estate pros, advocates to City Hall

The bill would shift the hefty fee from tenants to whomever hires the broker.

City Council Member Chi Ossé has tried to target broker fees twice.

City Council Member Chi Ossé has tried to target broker fees twice. ANDREA RENAULT/AFP via Getty Images

New York City Council Member Chi Ossé is once again trying to prevent renters from being forced to shoulder broker fees. 

Poised for City Council consideration in one of the only U.S. cities where tenants are often on the hook for paying what can be a hefty fee, his legislation has already galvanized both opponents and supporters ahead of its Wednesday committee hearing. Over 1,500 real estate professionals plan to descend on City Hall to rally against the measure Wednesday morning. Tenant rights and housing advocates also plan to mount a show of support. 

Intro 360, dubbed the Fairness in Apartment Rental Expenses Act, would alter how landlords and tenants pay real estate broker fees by requiring whoever hires the broker to bear the responsibility. The potential change could be seismic. That burden currently typically falls with New York City tenants regardless of who hired the broker. Fees, which often range from one month’s rent to 20% of the annual rent, are viewed by many as a barrier to New Yorkers finding a place to live – particularly amid the city’s ongoing housing crisis and 1.4% vacancy rate.

While this is the second time Ossé has tried to change how broker fees work, Wednesday’s 10 a.m. Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection hearing will mark the furthest the bill has come so far. With 32 co-sponsors, the legislation is also only just shy of reaching a veto-proof majority. More than 30 advocacy groups ranging from immigrant advocacy group Make the Road New York, the New York Working Families Party, Housing Justice for All and the Legal Aid Society have also voiced their support. A growing number of unions have also signed on, including the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council, city workers’ union DC37, the New York State Nurses Association and the District Council of Carpenters. 

“If you want a broker, great, hire them. And if you don’t want one, my bill says you don’t have to pay,” Ossé said in a TikTok video. He’s hit social media hard in the build-up to the hearing, hoping to rally supporters and spread awareness.

Still, the legislation is hardly a sure passage. The powerful Real Estate Board of New York, which has long fought against broker fee reforms, has mounted a strong challenge against the bill, warning of “unintended direct consequences” for both renters and agents. More than 1,800 REBNY members have signed up to testify at Wednesday’s hearing, according to the group.

“God bless Council Member Ossé. With all due respect, he’s gone to look for one apartment it sounds like in his life, and maybe it was a convoluted process for him because there’s not enough units on the market,” said Ryan Monell, REBNY’s vice president of government affairs.

“But you have (over 1,000) agents showing up on June 12 telling him it’s a bad idea.”

REBNY and other opponents contend that the legislation would push rents to higher levels as landlords would bake the cost of the broker's fee into the annual rent. They say the legislation could also incentivize landlords to take apartment listings off the internet to instead work with brokers they have a preexisting relationship with.

“The consumers won’t be able to find it on public listing aggregators like Zillow or Trulia or Realtor, – they’ll have to hire a broker just to find out what’s available,” said Douglas Wagner of the real estate firm Bond New York. 

Asked how he feels about the legislation in light of his previous experience as a real estate agent, New York City Mayor Eric Adams told reporters Tuesday that it’s important to be careful while weighing such an important issue. 

“We are going to do the bill and we’re going to see exactly how it impacts the industry,” he said. “Because I’ve had so many jobs, I think through in deliberating on these things. Idealism collides with realism when you start to try to alter entire industries.”