Q: I am a real estate sales agent, licensed in the District and in Maryland. I am having some difficulties with my broker, especially with respect to the sales commissions to which I am entitled. I maintain that I should be getting more for my sales than my broker is willing to pay. What rights do I have?
A: There are too many sales agents in the Washington metropolitan area who have relied on the verbal statements of their broker, without reducing these statements to written contractual agreements.
I strongly recommend, for the protection of both the broker and the agent, that a written contract spell out the terms and conditions of the employment. Many other professions use these so-called "employment contracts," and the real estate profession should do so as well.
For example, what percentage of the commission will the agent receive? In many brokerage firms, agents receive a different percentage, depending on whether they are the selling agents or the listing agents.
What rights does the agent have with respect to using the facilities of the brokerage office?
Are there office rules and procedures, and is the agent bound by these procedures?
Can the broker reject a potential listing by the agent, and if so, under what terms and conditions?
What grounds, if any, does the broker have to fire the agent? If an agent is discharged, does he or she have any right to commissions for properties sold by that agent, but no which the settlement has not yet occured?
If a dispute develops between the broker and the agent, can the broker withhold all or part of the agent's commission until the dispute is resolved?
Is there a provision for taking disputes to binding arbitration, or must either party resort to the legal system, which is time-consuming and costly.
These are but a few of the many terms and conditions that should be spelled out between the broker and the agent. And a written contract should be entered into, giving protection to both sides.
After all, the real estate profession clearly understands the value of a written contract for the purchase and sale of property. Why shouldn't a written document be used for the relationship between agent and broker?
Benny L. Kass is a Washington attorney. Write him in care of the real estate section, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington 20071.