Shabbat Parashat Va'eira| 5765
A Real Estate’s Agent Claims to have Precipitated a Deal - Based on Piskei Din - Rabbinical Court of Yerushalayim - vol. III, pp.219-220
Case: Reuven, an agent to sell Shimon’s apartment, showed the apartment to Levi, but Yehuda ended up buying it. Yet Reuven claims that Yehuda found out about the apartment from Levi, and, thus, Reuven claims that he caused the sale and deserves brokerage payment?
Ruling: The Tur (CM 185) cites the Rambam that an agent is a type of shaliach (one who carries out an assignment on someone else’s behalf) who receives a salary for his shelichut. The Beit Yosef cites the Rosh (Shut 105) about Reuven who was an agent to sell Shimon’s house and convinced Levi to buy it, but the sale did not go through because Shimon hated Levi. The Rosh ruled that Reuven could not claim an agent’s fee, because he did not accomplish anything for Shimon. It is common for there to be multiple agents, with the one who completes the sale receiving payment. He compares it to the case of one who attempted to save his friend’s donkey and was unsuccessful. The gemara (Bava Kama 116a) rules that he does not get paid for saving the donkey, just for the toil of the attempt. So too, says the Rosh, the agent does not deserve any more than is due for his efforts. Furthermore, in the gemara’s case, there is more reason to make him pay, because the one who tried to save sacrificed his own donkey in the process, whereas here, the agent lost nothing. The Beit Yosef implies from the Rosh that the agent would at least get paid for his efforts, as the agent did lose something in the process, namely his time. However, he points out that the custom is not to pay at all. Rather, he explains that according to the Rosh’s second reason, since there is no actual loss, no payment at all is made. Similarly, the S’ma (264) brings the Mordechai’s opinion (accepted by the Netivot, B’er Hagola, and Taz ad loc.) that if an agent went to carry out a mission, but was stopped by the outbreak of war, the one for whom he went does not have to pay.
Let us apply these sources to the case at hand. Even if Yehuda found out about the apartment from Levi (who found out from the agent, Reuven) Levi has no claim to be paid as long as Reuven did not send Levi to inform Yehuda. Reuven is like what the Mordechai describes as one who began a job [for which he was to be paid for the final result] but was stopped in the middle.
There is an opinion of the Shev Yaakov (siman 13) that if a matchmaker began suggesting a shidduch but did not complete it and then others were able to finish off that shidduch, then the matchil (the one who began) is entitled to partial payment. That applies in the case where, without his suggestion, the idea would not have been raised at all. But in this case, where several agents were involved, it is impossible to prove that Reuven’s efforts were that which made the apartment known to Yehuda, and even the Shev Yaakov would not require even partial payment.
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