Realtor wants money from us

Back in September of 2016 my husband and I bought our first house. At the end of signing all of the papers our realtor handed us a check, made out to us, for almost $700. We asked if the check was ours to cash and spend and he said yes. Now he is saying that it was a mistake and we have to pay him the money back. Are we responsible for this?

Asked on April 2, 2017 under Real Estate Law, Iowa


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

You don't give much by way of details, however the law dissfavor "unjust enrichment". That is, in a situation where one person is enriched at the expense of another in circumstances which the law deems unjust. Since, you would benefit from your realtor's mistake and benefit from something that you did not earn, you are legally obligted to return the money. And when you think about it, if you had accidentally been shorted money in some way, you would be entitled to that.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Assuming he is correct and it was a mistake (i.e. this was not money which should have come to you), you do have to return it: the law is very clear that person A's mistake does not entitle person B to keep money or other property incorrectly sent or given to person A. If you don't return it, he could sue you and would almost certainly win.

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