Q: I am a real estate sales agent, licensed in the District and in Maryland. I am having difficulties with my broker, especially about 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 area who have relied on the verbal statements of their brokers without reducing these statements to written contractual agreements.

I strongly recommend, for the protection of both the broker and the agent, that you enter into a written contract, spelling out the terms and conditions of your employment. Many other professions use these so-called "employment contracts" and real estate professionals 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.

Can the broker reject a potential listing by the agent, and if so, under what terms and conditions?

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?

What rights does the agent have with respect to using the facilities of the brokerage office?

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 on which the settlement has not yet occured?

Are there office rules and procedures, and is the agent bound by these procedures?

There should also be a provision for taking disputes to binding arbitration, so the parties don't have to 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 in a written contract.

After all, the real estate profession clearly understands the value of a written document.