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Battle brewing in City Council over who should pay cost of broker fees in NYC

A bill that would essentially shift the burden of paying broker’s fees to landlords is heating up ahead of a key City Council hearing next week.

Crowds are expected to fill City Hall on Wednesday both for and against the measure, which could seismically shift the New York rental world.

Intro 360, or the Fairness in Apartment Rental Expenses (FARE) Act, would require broker fees be paid by whoever hired the agent — typically the landlord — but would neither cap nor eliminate the fees.

“We know that something needs to change when it comes to this broker fee system, and this bill is just so common sense,” said Council member Chi Ossé, a Brooklyn Democrat and the FARE Act’s prime sponsor.

If passed, it would mark an enormous change from the status quo, where renters typically pay a one-off broker fee on moving in, even if they didn’t hire the broker. The situation is almost entirely unique to New York City, where the fees are not capped and there are not-infrequent headlines about eye-watering amounts paid to brokers amid the ongoing housing crisis.

Ossé has been waging a viral online campaign in recent months to draw supporters to the June 12 hearing. The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), an influential trade group pushing back against the bill, has been rallying its members to do the same and show up in opposition.

Ossé’s bill has been gaining momentum since he introduced it last year, and Wednesday’s turnout will be a test of his internet savvy — and significant labor and activist support — versus REBNY’s massive resources and established lobbying machine.


City Councilman Chi Ossé is pictured on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan on April 21, 2022.

Shawn Inglima/for New York Daily News

Council member Chi Ossé, a Brooklyn Democrat and the FARE Act’s prime sponsor, is pictured on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan on April 21, 2022. (Shawn Inglima for New York Daily News)

Many brokers and the larger real estate industry argue the FARE Act would make it more difficult for agents to earn a living and potentially lead to increased rents if landlords decide to shift the upfront cost of the fee into the monthly rent.

Keyan Sanai, an agent with Douglas Elliman, predicted the measure would make his job “significantly harder.”

“What it does is it prices people out in a different way,” he said. “So we’re just pushing the food around the plate instead of addressing the real issues.”

REBNY has been campaigning hard against the bill since last year, when it blocked the FARE Act from getting a committee hearing.

“Not only would it raise costs, it takes away choice,” said Ryan Monell, the group’s vice president of government affairs.

The bill’s supporters counter that about half of city apartments are rent stabilized, meaning any price increases can only be approved by the Rent Guidelines Board, and contend the rates for the remaining units are up to market forces.

“If [landlords] could increase your rent tomorrow, they would have done so yesterday,” said Ossé, who suggested the bill could even lead to a downward pressure on rents.

His coalition has grown in recent months. The FARE Act has a majority of 31 backers in the 51-person Council, up from 26 in February when he reintroduced it, and has the endorsement of dozens of prominent trade unions and housing organizations.

“The public isn’t fooled,” Ossé said of the opposition’s arguments. “You can clearly see that there are members of the City Council who are not swayed by those talking points as well.”

Whether the FARE Act gets put to a vote will ultimately be up to Speaker Adrienne Adams, who has yet to comment on the legislation. If passed, it would be enforced by the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection.

Those wishing to testify at Wednesday’s hearing can sign up on the Council website. The dueling rallies are set for 9 a.m. outside City Hall ahead of the 10 a.m. committee meeting.


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