In Elliman lawsuit, high stakes for brokers acting as dual agents

From the December issue: In a case closely watched by the residential brokerage community, New York State’s Highest Court will soon rule in a legal battle between Prudential Douglas Elliman and the dissatisfied sellers of a Park Avenue co-op.

The 2009 lawsuit, Douglas Elliman LLC vs. Tretter, was filed after the clients refused to pay their broker’s $70,000 commission, arguing that she was also working for the apartment’s buyers without telling them.

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In May, the state Supreme Court’s appellate division ruled that the fee must be paid. The sellers, Franklin and Sheila Tretter, are now contesting that decision to the New York State Court of Appeals. The court could rule at any time, affirming the decision in Elliman’s favor, finding for the Tretters, or sending the matter to trial.

However the case plays out, real estate observers said the Tretters’ claim — that their broker was not wholly on their side — should serve as a warning to real estate agents to make certain that buyers and sellers understand who they represent. [more]