New York state scrutinizing $20K broker fee for rent-stabilized unit

Solil-owned UWS unit rented for $1,725 per month

City Wide Apartments agent Ari Wilford and 206 West 104th Street (City Wide Apartments, Google Maps, Getty Images)
City Wide Apartments agent Ari Wilford and 206 West 104th Street (City Wide Apartments, Google Maps, Getty Images)

A broker fee that far outstripped the norm has caught the eye of New York’s Department of State.

The agency, responsible for licensing real estate agents, is looking into the nearly $20,000 fee City Wide Apartments broker Ari Wilford collected in the Upper West Side on a one-bedroom apartment, the New York Post reported. There’s no limit on fees, but it’s against protocol for agents to charge “exorbitant commissions that have no reasonable relationship to the work involved.”

The one-bedroom apartment at 206 West 104th Street was listed at $3,750 per month, but Wilford said it was rent stabilized and could be had at $1,725 a month — but a tenant would have to fork over $20,000.

One renter was able to persuade Wilford to come down $500 before agreeing to the deal, believing the broker’s claim that the money would all even out by the end of the day at the Solil Management building.

Brokers don’t typically charge such a premium for their services, which usually run either 15 percent of one year’s rent or one month’s rent. Power broker Dolly Lenz previously told the Post that the fee “probably isn’t kosher.”

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This doesn’t appear to be Wilford’s first attempt at collecting a big broker fee. One woman claimed to the outlet Wilford was asking for four times as much as the monthly rent on a rent-stabilized apartment, ultimately securing $7,000 for a unit that rented for fewer than $2000 a month. A prospective tenant in Gramercy Park balked at the $10,000 fee being demanded for a $2,400/month unit.

Wilford didn’t comment to the outlet about the investigation. City Wide owner Michael Jacobs defended the fees.

“Brokers provide great value to their clients and have been working harder than ever at a time where demand is surging, supply is low, and finding a home in New York City has become more challenging than ever,” Jacobs told the outlet.

Actions, however, may speak louder than words. While Wilford’s LinkedIn page still showed him as a City Wide employee as of Monday morning, his profile page on the company’s website appears to have been removed.

City Wide didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

— Holden Walter-Warner