Shabbat Parashat Korach| 5764
Real Estate Brokerage Fee - A section of Piskei Din Rabbani’im, XIII, pg. 34
Case: A woman (=pl), who was not hired by the sellers of a property (def) as their agent, brought a potential buyer to see the property. After some time, that person bought the property and some time after that, pl asked for a brokerage fee. Def gave only a small amount of money to pl, and a regional beit din rejected her claim to receive according to the accepted rates of real estate agents. The High Rabbinical Court sat on this matter as a court of appeals.
Ruling: The regional beit din was correct in bringing Biur Hag’ra (CM 87:117), that an agent (in their case, a matchmaker) who stepped forward without being requested, is governed by the rules of one who began working the field of his friend without permission. The gemara (Bava Metzia 101a) states that when such a field is slated for planting, the owner has to pay the unhired worker according to the amount that one would normally pay to do the work.
The regional beit din reasoned that, in this case, the property was not slated for a real estate agent, because the owner had put up signs on his own to sell it. However, that logic does not seem at all compelling. After all, the property was to be sold, and it is very common for the sellers of property to both put up their own signs and request or accept the services of real estate agents. The point of the advertisements is to attract enough interest that it is possible that they will not need an agent, but not necessarily to exclude the possibility of using an agent.
Furthermore, the Pitchei Teshuva (264:3) cites the Pri Tevuah that when one brings benefit to one’s friend, he deserves to be paid even if the recipient indicated that he did not plan to pay for the services. It is true that some acharonim question this last point. But, on the other hand, in our case, the person who proved to be the buyer was brought forward by the agent even before the advertisements were made. We cannot say retroactively that the benefit of being introduced to the eventual buyer was of no import based on steps taken afterwards to try to sell the property without an agent.
Def claims that pl relinquished any potential right to payment, as evidenced by the fact that she did not raise the issue of payment, rather that the sellers asked her about the matter after the sale was complete. That shows, they claim, that her intention had been to do a favor for def. Beit din rejects this line of reasoning. In order to assume that one has relinquished his rights based on his silence, the connection between the silence and the relinquishing of rights must be clear. Here, there is ample reason to believe that since pl is asking only for partial payment and not payment like a full-fledged agent, that she did not feel it was necessary to formally raise the matter of her expectations before the money was due. To the contrary, one can inquire if the silence of the sellers, who did not verbalize that they did not plan to pay, cannot be taken as a sign of their agreement to pay.
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