What are my legal rights when a realtor verbally states apartment approval but no lease has been supplied?

I met a realtor about 8 days ago we went through the credit check (my boyfriend and I had high scores) and gave the realtor our deposit and realtor fee (near 4k). The realtor called us a day later and said verbally we were approved and just had to wait for the lease. It has been 8 days and the realtor now says that the landlord “doesn’t care” that we have been trying to sign a lease; nthing has been given to them. They are not pushing to get this lease either. We are afraid that the landlord can just change his mind the day before move in leaving us homeless. Additionally we can’t get our money back

Asked on October 13, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The following describes what would generally happen in a situation like the one you describe; however, since every situation is different, you should consult in person with an attorney about your specific circumstances and options.

1) If you never heard from the landlord that the apartment was yours, then you probably have no cause of action against the landlord--that is, you can't force him to rent you the apartment, get compensation from him, etc.

2) If the deposit you gave the realtor was a specifically nonrefundable one, which was given to him/her before the news about the apartment, you can't necessarily get the money back. What you can do is hold the realtor to whatever his/her obligations are under the agreement you signed with him or her...e.g. if she has to find you some apartment, that's what he or she needs to do.

3) If you incurred additional costs (e.g. buying furniture for this new apartment; putting items in storage to move there; etc.) all in reliance on what the realtor told you, you may be able to sue the realtor for these costs. Additionally, if because of the realtor's representation, you broke or did not renew a lease, you may be able to sue him or her for the costs you incur from having to find new housing. Note though that there is a duty to minimize, or mitigate, losses: since you already know that there's reason to doubt that this lease will go through, if you continue to spend money in this situation or take other actions which are adverse to yourselves, you may not be able to recover for them--the law does not let people knowingly throw good money after bad.


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