Reader Email: Paying for an Agent's Time?

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The Email: Dear Off-Campus Housing, I was working with an agent to find an apartment, but ultimately I signed a lease with a local landlord for a room in her home that she posted on your apartment database. No agent was ever involved with this transaction. Now, the agent I was working with wants me to pay him for the time he spent trying to find me an apartment, despite the fact that I never signed a lease through him. Am I obligated to pay him anything? Please advise.

Off-Campus Housing Response: Agents are due their fee if they are the procuring cause of your lease agreement. If you signed a lease for a property the agent had previously shown you, then you would owe the agent their fee, as they would have been the procuring cause of that lease agreement. However, if you found a place on your own directly through a landlord, then you would not owe any fee. In the case you described, you would not need to pay the agent anything, as they were not the procuring cause for the lease that you ultimately signed. It is important to keep in mind that agents are not paid for the amount of time they spend on the sale or rental, but rather they earn a commission when a sale or lease is completed. Finally, the commission rate should also be defined (in writing) when you first start working with the agent. 

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