For years, when a licensed New York state real estate broker or salesperson admitted to violating state licensing law, few people would ever know about it.
Each year, dozens of the so-called consent orders were quietly negotiated between the state Department of State, which licenses and regulates New York real estate brokers and agents. While technically public information, the admissions of guilt were not published online and were difficult for the public to obtain.
This week, for the first time, the Department of State began publishing the negotiated settlements online, revealing violations by the heads of Citi Habitats and aptsandlofts.com, top executives at Prudential Douglas Elliman and associate brokers at the Corcoran Group.
There were 38 settlement cases made available this week, all finalized in 2011 that involved New York City firms, but the original complaints were from as early as 2008, a review of the documents by The Real Deal shows. The state would not comment on the documents or confirm exactly when they were made available. (All the documents were dated March 6, indicating the DOS published them that day.)
Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats, admitted to not properly supervising a salesperson who advertised improperly in a newspaper. Malin was fined $500. David Maundrell, president of aptsandlofts.com, was fined $1,500 for paying a commission to an unlicensed agent.
Citi Habitats didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for aptsandlofts.com said the agent told the firm he was properly licensed, when he was not.
“There was a glitch in our internal tracking system that had his license as being active when, in fact, it had expired,” the spokesperson said.
Elliman executives Steven James, president of Manhattan brokerage; and Kenneth Haber, executive vice president and general counsel, were cited for permitting “unlicensed services and split commissions with an unlicensed individual,” in 2009 and were fined a combined $3,000.
A spokesperson for Elliman said in response, “Prudential Douglas Elliman does not comment on matters that have been previously resolved and rectified.”
A current top Elliman agent, Wilber Gonzalez, was fined $2,000 after he was charged and pleaded guilty in 2010 to misdemeanor tax evasion, but has since repaid the government, the consent order says.
Two agents at Corcoran, Sarah Bond and Dario Mannarino, were each fined $1,000 for unrelated violations.
Lawrence Longua, clinical associate professor at the Schack Institute of Real Estate at New York University, said no agent or broker wants to be on a list of those that violated state law.
“With all the information available on the Internet, people are more sophisticated and they are going to check you out. If your name pops up, you may lose business, possibly,” he said.
The state negotiates a consent order with the brokerage and the individuals who admit to wrongdoing, and usually issues a fine, generally between $500 and $3,000, depending on the severity of the case, the review shows. But it can suspend or revoke licenses, or require professionals to take more real estate courses.
In addition to consent orders, the state has published online decisions since 2007, which are rendered when a real estate professional challenges the accusations and the case is sent to an administrative law judge. However, the first stage in the process, a complaint against a broker or agent, is not published online.
The Real Deal first published consent orders settled between 2009 and March 2011 obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request last year.